Senior Lane Travis writes about the need for mentors among young men and how coaches like Chattanooga Christian School's Eddy Newton fill that role.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one in four children live without a father in the home. Not only can growing up in a fatherless home possibly be linked to higher rates of suicide in high school, but secondary data shows that young men are more likely to engage in criminal activity (Szecsei). This societal issue comes with different reasons, different experiences, and different outcomes. Fortunately, for a lot of young men, they have a coach or coaches, that fill this gap in the best way they can.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one in four children live without a father in the home.
The importance of coaching is often overlooked. Coaches can have a huge impact on athletes, and often coaches take it for granted. Sometimes it is more about winning than making a difference in young people’s lives. Coach Eddy Newton is a middle aged man with blonde hair that is kept short as if he were still in the military. He coaches at Chattanooga Christian School and has coached at numerous other schools. We sat on the tailgate of a 87 Chevy C10 outside the shop where we were building his son, Landon's dream truck. The smell of fresh paint was in the air and the dirty grease was on our hands. It was a sunny evening that Sunday April 10th. Landon was making a ruckus in the shop while cleaning it up. Eddy and I began talking and one of the first things he said was, “Coaches are too concerned with the sport and not the athlete.”
A coach is often someone who is responsible for winning so they are often too caught up in the idea of winning. A coach truly wins when he makes an impact on an athlete's life, not when the player makes an impact on the field or mat. The life of a lot of athletes is far from easy. A lot of us come from a broken background. Eddy tells me about his childhood life and living in a divorced household. He grew up with a lot of arguing and confusion in his household. All he had was his brother, and sports became an outlet for them as well as a safe place. This is the case for most athletes. As Eddy said, “We find value in sports.”
Divorce rates are higher than ever, and that takes a toll on kids. Eddy living in a divorced household caused him to have a lot of anxiety throughout his high school life. Eddy’s main struggle of living in a divorced household was having a young mother. She didn’t know how to be a mom. Her kids were in the way. She took her regrets, her frustration, and her anger from her childhood and directed it towards Eddy and his brother Allen. There was a lot of physical and mental abuse, but not out of malice, out of her not knowing how to handle the situation she was in. This affected Eddy’s high school life through anxiety. But by the time he and his brother were in high school they were pretty much on their own. They would stay with coaches and teachers. They never had a solid base. They would wonder where their next meal was coming from. As Eddy recalls, “We were always looking for peace.” Fortunately for Eddy a wrestling coach stopped him in the hall one day and asked him to come out. The first year Eddy started wrestling, he was in a car wreck and could not wrestle at all that year. But the second year he came back out and found that, “In that 6 minutes he was in control, and nothing else matters. It was an opportunity to feel equal or superior no matter the home-life circumstances.” Eddy had found self worth and the only thing he needed to be successful was to outwork everyone else. And thats what he did.
But it wasn’t about his wins or losses, not to the coaches. They weren’t concerned with how well he did on the field or the mat; but rather, as Coach Eddy states, “concerned with was I evolving and becoming a better person.” Coaches were invested in Coach Eddy as an individual, even if he wasn’t playing the sport they coached. They wanted to make sure he was learning to deal with the issues and demons he had obtained due to his childhood. From knowing Coach Eddy and his story, it’s obvious to me that these coaches stepped in, became the father figures in Coach Eddy’s life, and played a huge part in him becoming the great man he is today.
Coaches were invested in Coach Eddy as an individual, even if he wasn’t playing the sport they coached. They wanted to make sure he was learning to deal with the issues and demons he had obtained due to his childhood.
Jason Mason, a writer for South Side Drive Magazine, wrote an article titled “Like a Father to Me - What Coaches mean to the Fatherless” and states that “one of the most frequently established replacement “Fathers” has been the coach.” Mason discusses the time spent between athletes and coaches with practicing, games, travel, etc. and “how this role forces a person to get invested in the personal lives of the players for the success of the team (Jun 2021)”. While I agree with that statement, it takes special coaches to get invested for the success of the individual. As Coach Eddy and I discussed about his coaches; they were invested in him, not just what he could do for them. These coaches not only coach the sport, but they mentor you on God, life, being a good husband and a good father.
Coach Eddy isn’t the only coach that cares so deeply about young men and our future, there are many. One man, Skip Ball, a retired coach in Idaho is part of “Fathers in the Field”. He, too, was fatherless and seems to share a bit of the same experiences Coach Eddy did as a child. The only positive male role models in his life were his coaches (Fathersinthefield.com, 2014). Ball states that, “sports became my therapy and coaches became my dads" (Fathersinthefield.com, 2014). Through Fathers in the Field’s mentorship program, they “help fatherless boys become men by being the example they so desperately want, yet may not know they need" (Fathersinthefield.com, 2014).
Coach Eddy spoke on this during our interview. I asked him about athletes that didn’t want or wasn’t receptive to his coaching/mentoring. He talked about some young men being too hard and not wanting your guidance or advice, that “you can’t save them all.” I believe that is true. But I also believe that there have been many times that his guidance made a difference without him knowing.
Coach Eddy has had quite a few athletes over his many years of coaching that he remembers, but he talks about one that ironically, is from my hometown of Valdosta, Georgia. The athlete was in and out of foster care and just simply wanted to be loved. Which I followed with asking him if he ever got too attached to one of his athletes. The way Coach Eddy answers proves fatherless teens need more coaches like him, while I am writing on coaches being fathers, Coach Eddy speaks of his athletes like his kids. He says, “Coaching is alot like parenting, you pour so much into them and you are preparing them to leave you.”
“Defending the Cause: Coach 'Em up - Mentorship Matters.” Fathers in the Field, 4 June 2015, https://www.fathersinthefield.com/coach-em-up-mentorship-matters/.
Mason, Jason. “Like a Father to Me – What Coaches Mean to the Fatherless by Jason Mason.” South Side Drive Magazine, 30 June 2021, https://southsidedrivemag.com/like-a-father-to-me-what-coaches-mean-to-the-fatherless-by-jason-mason/.
Szecsei, Szabolcs. “20 Statistics on Fatherless Homes and the Importance of Dads.” Modern Gentlemen, 25 Jan. 2022, https://moderngentlemen.net/statistics-on-fatherless-homes/#:~:text=1.-,According%20to%20the%20statistics%20of%20fatherless%20homes%2C%2017.4,children%20lived%20in%20fatherless%20homes.&text=This%20amounted%20to%20almost%20a,%E2%80%94%20more%20precisely%2C%2023.6%25.