Chris Yeager, head football coach at Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama, told this story to the Elite Coaches' Mastermind. It is an amazing story that I am honored to share with you.
THE COIN COLLECTION
Coach Yeager was unloading cones and dummies for the lineman camp he has hosted for years when his son came running up. 'Dad, mom needs you at registration!' As he entered the area, he saw his wife with an elderly grandmother and her ninth-grade grandson.
'Chris, this is William and his grandmother. William would like to pay for camp with his coin collection,' his wife told him. It seemed like they might be a family in need of some financial assistance, so Coach Yeager said to the grandmother, "ma'am, we don't mind 'giving your grandson a scholarship for the camp if there are monetary issues.' The grandmother wouldn't have it. 'If he pays for this camp with the coin collection he has worked to build, he will appreciate and enjoy the camp more.'
Coach Yeager thought, 'what?...well, ok.' Then he started looking at the coin collection. It was in an old blue jar with an antique-looking lid. As he unscrewed it, he could quickly see it was special. There were several old bills and silver dollars from the 1800s. This was no ordinary coin collection; it was worth quite a bit more than the cost of admission.
Coach Yeager looked at William and said, "I tell you what, William. I am going to take this coin collection, but it is still yours. I am just going to hold it for you. Then, whenever you want it back, I will mail it or bring it back to you, personally."
An hour later, Coach Yeager met with the thirty or so camp coaches. They were veteran college coaches and even current or former NFL players. He told them about William and his coin collection.
They were moved by the story and wanted to meet William. As Coach Yeager ended the meeting and started walking off, he turned around and said, "men, every one of these campers has sacrificed something to be here. We need to treat all of them like they are William."
William is currently serving our country in the military and is stationed in Germany. He sends Coach Yeager a letter about once a year. The last one had two buffalo nickels taped to the card to represent his jersey number 55.
I did not do this story justice. Unfortunately, I am not a skilled enough writer to put you in the ECMM class when Coach Yeager passionately told this story and held up the jar and took some of the money out for us to see.
Coach Yeager ended with this, "we are all coaching Williams who are giving up things that are very special to them to get better. Are we doing the same? Are we sacrificing with the same passion for improving as a coach?"
Great story, Coach Yeager. More importantly, an even better question for all of us who are leaders and coaches.