Chop wood, Carry water: Kevin Keeton 1/8

Kevin Keeton

By Kevin Keeton former Belton and Oak Park Head Coach
Posted: January 10, 2018 - 9:51 AM

Several years ago, I remember a conversation I had with Chip Sherman. Mostly, I just listened and nodded as Coach told me about a time he and my dad shared leftover Stroud’s gizzards sitting in the stands, scouting a common opponent. We both laughed about it, although I doubted the truth at the time. My dad wouldn’t share his gizzards with the Pope. Before Coach Sherman turned to leave, he grabbed my forearm, and I’ll never forget what he said:  “You know, one day, you guys are going to have to take this from us. One day this will all be your generation’s responsibility”.

Coach Sherman was referring to something that has been on my mind lately. Namely, how do we grow the capacity for leadership in our coaching associations. How do we help young coaches, primarily assistant coaches, build the necessary skills to become mentor-coaches in their own right? How do we give them the opportunities to build and practice those skills necessary for transformational leadership?

The x’s and o’s coaching in our game here in Kansas City has never been better. It is truly a rarity anymore to hear a coach whisper that his opponent probably got “out coached”. I do realize the arrogance of that statement, but I stand by it none the less. Young coaches are coming out of college programs with such a better understanding of scheme than they used to – certainly better than I ever did. What used to be unheard of, the potential of a 23 or 24-year old to coordinate one side of the ball, is now fairly common place.

However, I do believe that we need to do more for our young assistants. We need to look for avenues to engage them – not only for their own careers, but for the continued health of our associations, and ultimately the high school game itself.

I found this poem in an old family photo album. At the risk of hearing about it from a few of you, I wanted to share it.

Building the Bridge

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge, to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you the bridge at eventide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head,
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."

This unknown author understood what all great leaders understand – a legacy is measured by that which is passed down. We are all blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of great professional organizations – built by the hard-work of others. Coach Sherman was right, it’s our turn now.  

Kevin Keeton is former head coach at Belton and Oak Park. He is a member of the board of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association and the Missouri Football Coaches Association.