I have coached football for more than a quarter century. In that time, I estimate that close to 600 kids have come under my care and guidance on the gridiron. One of them was Luken Boyle, the 14-year-old young man who tragically took his own life last week, apparently due to social bullying (Aug. 4, ‘‘Teens pitch in for Suicide Prevention Coalition”).
Luken played for our program for three years with the heart and spirit of a lion, packaged in the body of a lamb. I nicknamed him “Beast” for the tenacity that he hid behind his boyish smile.
A coach does so much more than just guide his or her team to victory. They are a teacher, mentor, counselor, and minister.
This is why Luken’s death has me asking questions that appear to have no answers. I watched him become a strong and determined young man. I know our football program was a very small piece of Luken’s life. But it still does not make it any easier to understand.
I just want to remind all youth sports coaches that the shiny medals are nice, but they should never be the real goal of what we do. Most athletes will forget the game and its outcome 15 minutes after they leave the parking lot. But coaches are a very influential part of a young player’s life. Teach him the sport, but also teach him self-worth and confidence. Maybe you will be that spark to help him deal with the pressures of today’s youth.
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