Mr. Newberry and I had a special relationship with one another over a span of about five decades. In fact, it will take a few posts to convey the influence of “Coach” on my life—a role model of much significance.
My first recollection of Coach is when at about age 8 my family joined his at a party for Super Bowl III. Together we watched quarterback Joe “Broadway” Namath lead the New York Jets to the improbable upset of the Baltimore Colts. It’s the first of many memories that we shared.
A personal friend of our family, Mr. Newberry taught junior high physical education and coached football and basketball. My dad kept the books (statistics) for some of his sports teams. We often hung with one another on team buses or in homes after games. The photo is one of our junior high basketball team–a perfect 20-0 over two seasons.
His large physical presence and occasional gruff exterior could intimidate some students But beneath any demanding and masculine front was a large and compassionate heart. I once experienced his growl. I clowned in practice and got an early boot to the showers. I deserved it, and I learned a lesson on the value of focus and work.
Times were different back then. Coach wielded a paddle that my backside never met. Some of my friends volunteered to receive a whack. I watched with disbelief as a few bore the pain to sign a weapon laced with air holes to heighten the sting. Coach, too, owned a set of 16-ounce boxing gloves that we could use to creatively settle disputes. We’d “put the gloves” on if we had issues with another. Few of us could lift them above our chest. Punches of little force were thrown. We just tired, built a bit of muscle, and most times forgot why we had gone to the basement to fight in the first place.
Coach loved to laugh and tell stories. When we met at age 60, he still insisted that he and a friend (“God’s truth”) dropped a box of soap suds into Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful as a summer intern there.
My dad has reminisced of the first time that he played golf with Coach. On one hole, Mr. Newberry walked about 20 yards forward of the tees. He feigned a look over the hill to what he knew from prior experience was a short, 130-yard par 3 (an 8-iron at best). He yelled, “Right on this line, Bob. Hit your driver and give it all you’ve got.” He stepped aside. Dad crushed a shot. Coach howled in laughter as we crested the hill to see that Dad’s golf ball lay somewhere in a cow pasture about 100 yards past the pin.
Coach had fun as he took seriously the task to shape boys into men. He knew how to foster self-esteem and confidence by requiring young men to persevere in a culture of challenge and praise. He developed our physical skills. Through rules exams and written essays on the history of various sports, he taught that academics mattered. If your grades were poor, you didn’t play.
I have enjoyed some great moments in life. Few have compared with his giant hand clasped around my finger as I heard him say what an honor it was to name me Outstanding Physical Education Student of Toledo Junior High.
You’ve heard a bit of coach. Stay tuned for some added posts that are too good to miss as I present some lifelong lessons learned through the mentorship of Richard Newberry—one forever my “Coach.”