This past January, Grant Coss and I were afforded the opportunity to define the Heart of the Game through imagery. We were challenged to show how important the Coach is beyond the buzzer.

While exploring our options, we quickly learned that we needed to “Live the Coach Life” for a few days. We needed to experience their daily struggles as well as their crazy long hours. We contacted Team Texas who put us in touch with Coach Ressa, Head Football Coach at Newman Smith High in Carrollton. Coach Ressa, in what we later learned to be true Coach Ressa fashion, welcomed us with open arms and made us feel like family.

We talked with Coach Ressa about his daily challenges. Coach Ressa and his staff recognize that most of their athletes come from single parent homes and desperately need the coaches to be their positive male role models in life. They deal with disciplinary issues, logistic problems, scholastic challenges… and all of that is long before they hit the court or playing field. Through it all though they practice what they preach; their work ethic is unbreakable and their sacrifice to their athletes unyielding.

We followed the coaches around for 2 full days, just trying to get a feel for their daily struggles. The challenges that our coaches face are far greater than the ones we see on the court; they carry their young athlete’s burdens on their shoulders. These burdens are ones that many adults often don’t know how to handle; but the coaching staff helps their students find a way. We found that Coach Ressa often does laundry for his athletes who’s water has been shut off at home. We noticed that Coach Johnson (Men’s Varsity Basketball Coach) always makes sure he has PB&J in the locker room–no questions asked–for any athlete who may not have food when they go home. They do these acts of kindness out of the goodness of their hearts and without any glory.

More than anything though we couldn’t help but notice the pride that the coaches take in their jobs and in the impact they have on the entire community. We learned that sports at this particular school mean so much more than we realized. The students at this school have a really high attendance rate; they attend school regularly because school is better than home. They then join sports not to be the best at the game–but to feel like the best at something. To receive praise and adoration from the coaching staff and from their fellow students. Coach Ressa emphasized to us how important it is that their athletes wear the top of the line uniforms. He told us that his athletes need to feel good and like they can compete when they go up against schools in wealthy communities. When you look good–you feel good. And these athletes feel like rockstars at gametime. Coach Ressa and his staff make sure of that. And I believe that these athletes are better people for it.

Red, White, Black.

– Brandace Laska