A little encouragement goes a long way
It has been nearly 40 years since I have communicated with Emmitt Omar, a teacher and coach at Garnett High School in the 1970s, but I did so recently through the Internet.
Back at GHS, I surely did not have any idea how important this teacher/coach would be in what's become the continuing soundtrack/movie-making drama/comedy/saga of my life.
Indeed, it has taken all of these years for me to put Mr. Omar into proper perspective.
As another class of area high school seniors is graduated this May, it is important to note, I believe, the important role that our teachers/coaches can play in the lives of these young people.
As a community, we probably do not do enough to recognize the importance of our teachers/coaches.
If you're a teacher or coach and you're looking for a thank you from these young people who are graduating today, it may not happen. But that does not mean they are not thankful.
Someday in the future, perhaps even 40 years from now, if you've done a good job, you may still get a nice thank you from these same people.
The public high school experience in Kansas has changed a lot over the years but in many ways it is still the same as it's always been - a big group of young people who spend each week day and a lot of evenings together with a big group of teachers. For the young people, it is a time for a lot of growing up.
Emmitt Omar was the freshman football coach when I was a freshman at GHS. Coming from a Catholic grade school that did not field a junior high football team, I believed I had a lot to prove on that freshman football team.
At the end of the season, at an awards ceremony in front of the entire student body, Coach Omar presented what the school called "freshman letters'' - it was a patch with a "77'' on it that you could sew on your letter jacket. Our class, of course, was the great class of 1977.
In front of the entire student body, Coach Omar announced over the microphone that the first letter goes to the player who always gave 110 percent at every practice, on every play. And then he called my name and I walked down out of the bleachers to accept the letter. Other students clapped, some may have booed. You know how kids can be...
This does not seem like much recognition now, but at the time this reinforcement and acknowledgement from a high school teacher/coach of what I was trying to accomplish in football gave me supreme confidence in myself.
From that day on, classmates and upperclassmen nicknamed me 110. Believe me, that was an OK nickname compared to most others in those days!
I can't remember any high school teacher/coach ever saying anything negative about me - to my face - but I certainly remember many of the good things that I heard. I am confident that holds true for many, many people looking back on their high school days.
If you're a teacher/coach and you want to be remembered 40 years from now, I know you can do that by finding good things to say about the young people you work with. If you’re a high school senior, on your way to the next big things in your life, don’t forget to give thanks where it is due.