You Can Do More: Jeff Floyd 5/3
By Jeff Floyd former Truman High School Head Coach
Toriano Porter is a journalist and writer. He has written two books, The Pride of Park Avenue and James Cool. I recruited Toriano (a defensive back) out of Eureka High School in St. Louis, while defensive coordinator at the University of Central Missouri.
Toriano is black.
I am white.
I was raised in a loving environment, an environment that respected all races. I watched and admired Dr. Martin Luther King growing up, and our house was shocked and saddened by his loss. I sang folk songs by Peter, Paul and Mary, and Dylan.
The neighborhood I grew up in was almost exclusively white (1960’s Ruskin Heights in Kansas City, Mo.) as was the city we moved to prior to my high school days (1970’s Blue Springs).
I went to college at a private Liberal Arts school (William Jewell College in Liberty) that was almost exclusively white.
My first teaching/coaching jobs were Blue Springs (1979-1982) Odessa (1982-1984) and Osceola (1984-1987)… white, white and white. I left Osceola for the college ranks, spending 10 seasons at the University of Central Missouri and four as head coach at William Jewell College.
Central Missouri was not exclusively white. It was really my first experience in teaching and coaching in this type of melting pot.
I loved it.
We had great players, black and white, urban and suburban, that worked hard and responded to my coaching.
I worked hard at my craft. Part of being a good coach is “knowing” your athletes… developing a relationship with them… knowing how to push their motivational “hot button”.
I thought that I could, and was, accomplishing this with all of my athletes.
Heck, I recruited St. Louis and Kansas City. East St. Louis, Ill. and Kansas City, Kan. were some of the roughest areas in the country…. and I walked the halls, and talked to students in schools there.
I sat in living rooms visiting with families in urban St. Louis and Kansas City.
I talked to all of my athletes… “How are your classes going?” … “How is your family doing?”
I thought I understood the challenges of being a young, black, student… of being a young black man… in Kansas City, St. Louis, or Warrensburg, Missouri.
As I mentioned, I was a product of the 60’s… MLK… “Blowing in the Wind”
It wasn’t until I read Toriano’s first book, The Pride of Park Avenue, in 2009, that I realized that I didn’t have a clue… I had (and still have) NO idea what it was, or is like, growing up as a black man in the United States.
The Pride of Park Avenue is part autobiography, part fiction. Toriano details, vividly, what it was like growing up in St. Louis, and his experiences at UCM. There is no complaining, whining, judging or blaming coming from Toriano… just authentic, gritty, stories of his journey.
Reading this narrative made me realize how completely different Toriano’s experience was from mine. It gave me an appreciation as to the relative ease of the path I was given…. a middle class white youth in the suburbs. It also gave me an appreciation of Toriano’s accomplishments.
Toriano is currently a Business/Education reporter at the Lee’s Summit Journal and a contributor to PrepsKC writing the weekly Eye on the IL segment during the season. He will release his third book, The Plain Ugly Truth, some time this year.
Toriano is a master… and the lessons he provided me are tough… and ones that I am till trying to learn.
You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!
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