Coach's Corner: Kevin Keeton 2/8
By Kevin Keeton former Belton and Oak Park Head Coach
Coach Jerry Culver passed away last Month. He must have been in his early 80s, although he seemed timeless when I first met him. I was 11 years old, and the world was wide open and full of wonder.
Since getting the news of his passing, my mind has been flooded with memories of him. In the summer of 1987, he and my father began coaching together at Center High School. Coach Culver made his first mark in head coaching at De La Salle High School in the 1960s. His teams won a state championship in 1981, and were runner-up in 1982 and 1988. Additionally, he was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association last summer.
Maybe 11 year-old boys aren’t impressed with those kinds of credentials, and you never would have known them from meeting the man. He had a warmth and charisma that were innate. Not only did his players – but all kinds of people seemed to flock to him.
Throughout my middle school years, Coach Culver allowed me to be a part of his Yellowjacket teams. I was a glorified water boy, just another coach’s kid hanging around practice. But the lessons learned, the things I saw and heard and witnessed, have become pricelessly ingrained in me.
Sitting cross-legged in the corner of the Center coaches’ office, partly to get lower than the cigar and pipe smoke, I learned how a gentleman tells a joke, how a man leads an organization, and how a good coach cares about people. (Never wanting to jeopardize being asked back, I also learned certain things were not to be discussed with momma at home.)
Along the way, after having dad quietly outfit me with a helmet, shoulder pads, and borrowed cleats, I also learned how to play the game the right way. “Head up, butt down, feet apart, short, choppy steps” became my mantra for coaching. The lessons learned there by that 11-year-old boy became my mantra for life.
The eyes of those legends of our coaching profession in Kansas City have always seemed to light up when talking about Jerry Culver. I have spoken with many of them over the years - legends such as Dan Stanley, Ron Hall, Bob Tavenaro, and Gerald Partridge. These men, and many others, are the giants on whose shoulders we currently stand. Each one of them counted Coach Culver not only as a fraternally respected colleague, but endearingly as a friend.
Coach Culver was one of those coaches with whom it was an honor to coach with and against. His players were prepared and played hard. I could go on and on about the numerous times when, even as a boy, I recognized his teams playing above and beyond their talent levels.
Our coaching community has lost one of its giants with the passing of Jerry Culver. I consider myself lucky to have known him during those tough middle school years. My heart is full of memories, smiles, and thankfulness.
What 11-year-old, what freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior do you know right now who needs YOU to be that kind of coach in their life? Who do you come in contact with every day in your coaching world who needs YOU to give them guidance, patience, and love? As has been said – “the harvest is a plenty, but the workers are few.” Never forget the power that a coach has on a young man’s life.
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