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Schools of Thought: The good the good coaches do

May 11, 2009
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

In the grand scheme of things, I think we all know the outcome of any one sporting event is of limited importance in the lives of the players, let alone the lives of everyone else.

Still, there is undoubtedly an impact made on the lives of high school athletes by the sports they play, the teammates with whom they play and the coaches for whom they play.

I'll single out two examples here, but there are many more. Gloversville basketball coach Don Landrio and Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips are not only in the business of building successful teams each season, but of building young men and young citizens.

I have, in the last few months and across several seasons, talked with former local high school players who have gone on to play at the collegiate level, and some of them have been amazed at what they have seen in college.

This isn't small-town-to-big-city amazement.

It's the kind of amazement an athlete from a disciplined and proud program experiences when they start playing on a college team that has a skewed sense of priority.

It's the frustration of an athlete who wants to win, having to deal with teammates who care just as much - or more - about partying afterward. I've seen locals return to the area for a break from college with a dumbfounded look on their faces when talking about how teammates act without that sense of personal pride or right and wrong that had been taught by their local coach.

Some of the local student-athletes are sent out into the world from our schools with their heads on straight, in no small part thanks to the coaches who have shown them how to conduct themselves.

It's something you can see when Landrio chirps in one of his players' ears before the kid is interviewed, reminding him to keep his composure and be respectful to their recently dispatched opponent. It's also visible when a Hilltopper shows even a flicker of anger after a strikeout and Phillips yells, "Hey, we don't act like that here."

The less-successful programs have these coaches, too. They might even have more of them. It's a lot harder to keep your cool when you're losing, but there are probably more lessons to be learned.

There have been cuts to coaching staffs at several schools and that is an unavoidable byproduct of our current economic situation. But when making these cuts or offering buyouts, the local boards of education must take into account the true value of some of our area coaches.

Parents of the kids who have been on these teams know exactly who the coaches are who make an impact on the lives of local athletes. These parents also are taxpayers, and I encourage each of them to write to their board of education and athletic director to let them know exactly why the community needs these people teaching their children these after-school lessons.

Athletics is not just something done for sport. While academics cultivates a student's mind, athletics can be a tool, if not one of the best tools, for building character. Those coaches who wield that tool best should be retained by whatever means possible.

Bill Cain is a sports reporter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at



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