There was a time when the word from an athletic coach was the final word on any matter that related to any team. If you think that is still the case, I have some swamp land in Florida that you may be interested in purchasing.
Back in February, former National Football League All-Pro Carl Lee became the head football coach for South Charleston High School, his alma mater.
Now just over five months on the job, Lee realizes a lot has changed from when he was a student-athlete in the ‘70s, saying, “I came up in an era when parents trusted coaches to yell, to scream, to push their kids as hard as you could to get the most out of them, the innocence of sports being something you learn life lessons from. We don’t use it that much in that fashion anymore.”
After graduating from South Charleston, Lee played his collegiate career at Marshall University, and, in 1995, he was inducted into the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame.
Lee doesn’t hesitate to mention how he thinks the change started. “Parents right now have been quick to tell me that they think their kid is pretty good and ‘I want him to be featured.’ They tell me they don’t need me get on him. This isn’t true in every case, but as long as the parent has this type of mind set, their child is always going to feel entitled.”
After his Marshall playing days, Lee was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round of the 1983 NFL Draft. He played 11 years for the Vikings and finished up his career playing one season for the New Orleans Saints. As an NFL player, Lee made the Pro Bowl in 1988, 1989, and 1990.
Throughout Lee’s high school, college, and professional football career, one of the driving facets that made him one of the best was the discipline each and every one of his teammates had to live up to from the coaches. Lee definitely sees that missing in today’s world. “Right now the way things are, it doesn’t align with a high school coach, like me, that wants discipline, needs discipline,” he said. “Players may get through their school playing career without truly listening to their coach, but it doesn’t work in college and that’s where their career will end.”
This is not Lee’s first coaching stint. Following his retirement from the NFL, in January 1996, Lee accepted the head coaching position at West Virginia State University. After the 2005 season, he resigned his position as head coach, and, during his 10 seasons with the Yellow Jackets, Lee compiled an overall record of 34 wins and 75 losses.
During our chat, the discussion circled back around to the subject of entitlement and the problem it is causing these days. Lee made it clear. it never happened during his playing days. “I remember that even though I was one of the starting cornerbacks, my coach had a need for me at free safety and told me that is where I was going to play until the injured player was able to play again. I did it, because that’s where the team needed me. If you do something like that today, everyone from parents to other fans question you and that’s wrong.”
So why get back into coaching when you know already just how much it has changed? Lee told me it was an easy decision.
“If I’m respectful and appreciative of the people who work and live in South Charleston and who reached out to me and asked me to step up, how can I turn my back on the city I grew up in and gave me a chance? I will be here as long as they want me and will hopefully help my kids get ready for the next chapter in their lives.”
First game on Coach Lee’s Black Eagles slate will be a tough one, as Morgantown visits South Charleston on Aug. 25, and one thing is for sure: The team will be ready.