Updated: May 5, 2021
Raymond Jackson was my dad. He coached for 41-years, mostly at Tenaha High School in Tenaha, Texas. He grew up in the small, east Texas town of Gary, one of six children. My grandparents were sharecroppers, so there wasn't much money...ever. My memories of my grandpa are of him wearing overalls, needing to shave and 'rolling his own' Prince Albert cigarettes (he was buried in overalls because no one else saw him wear anything else either).
My dad was tall (6'6") and pretty good at basketball (he told me he once scored 68 points in a game). He was offered a basketball scholarship to Arkansas, but was afraid he wouldn't fit in being so poor after taking his official visit to the campus. He ended going to Tyler Junior College, but it was still tough being away from home without any financial support, so he decided to quit and go back to Gary.
He hitch-hiked back home and walked up to the house. He didn't see anyone but heard his mom, Annie Ruth, on the back porch talking to one of their neighbors.
"We are so proud of Raymond. We know it must be tough for him to be at school with no money. We feel terrible about it, but I thank God he is hanging in there."
Raymond froze, realized he couldn't let them down, and went back. He says his mom never knew he was there. He just walked back to the road, stuck his thumb out and made the journey back to TJC.
Why is this story significant or 'blog worthy'? My dad was the first person in his family to go to college. He eventually graduated from Corpus Christi University, where he met my mom, Sylvia (a significant occurrence for me personally), and became a coach. He stuck it out and changed our family forever. It never crossed my mind not to go to college. My older brother, Ray, was valedictorian of Tenaha High School and is a college graduate. My kids attend college...you get the message. When someone 'breaks the cycle' and begins the higher education standard by becoming a college graduate, it affects generations.
It's a big deal.
Bill Blankenship was our speaker this week for the Elite Coaches' Mastermind. Coach Blank was the head coach at Tulsa University for four seasons and has also won state championships at three different high schools (the only coach ever to do this?): Tulsa Union, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Owasso, Oklahoma. Before the session, I asked coach, 'what is one topic close to your heart you would like to discuss? His response was, "I would love to hit on how helping students can result in generational change. Not just for the youngster, but we have a chance to impact generations of his kids."
When my dad decided to suck it up, turn around, and go back, it changed our family for generations. Coach Blank was the first in his family to go to college. He had other examples of players he has coached who were the generational change for their families. Both of these young men became coaches in their hometowns to give back.
It is a big deal.
A few years ago, while visiting SMU, I met head men's basketball coach Larry Brown. He told me he loved coaching there, but the faculty could sometimes be tough on understanding his players versus the typical SMU student. "This season, our starting point guard failed a physical education class and became ineligible, so I set up a meeting with the professor. He told me, 'coach, he never speaks in class or participates'... I reminded him that this young man grew up in south-central Los Angeles and might be self-conscious, doesn't feel adequate, etc. Then I told the professor this; 'do you realize if this young man gets a diploma from Southern Methodist University, it will change his family for the next four generations?"
An SMU diploma is a big deal.
Coach Brown gets it. We are here to push, pull and mentor young people to break the cycle and help them start their families on a new trajectory.
I have told my dad's story to my teams a few times over the years and asked them (without raising their hands) if they have a chance to be the generational change agent for their family. I remind them that they can be the "Raymond Jackson" or "Bill Blankenship" for their kids, grandkids, and so on.
The next time you have to handle an issue with an athlete who is tough to deal with or when you get tired of going the extra mile, remind yourself you are helping change families for the next 100 years.
Teaching and coaching is a BIG DEAL. We are blessed to get to impact the kids in our programs.
Raymond Jackson helped change hundreds of families in Tenaha as the head football and basketball coach there for 23 years. Football games are played at 'Raymond Jackson Stadium'.
He made an impact.