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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coach Doug Booth

I moved from Clay to the Valley School District my sixth grade year. There, at Valley, a coach was compiling amazing junior high records in basketball, football, and baseball (then a junior high sport) at that time. I played for this man for many years as he coached numerous sports in junior high, and later, in high school. We won several titles during his coaching days. He later went on to be principal and superintendent of the district. I have never played sports for a man who knew a game better, who knew the rules of a game better, or who knew the talents and abilities of his players better than Coach Doug Booth. In fact, Coach Booth was the best coach I have ever had, period. I have heard many other players echo the same opinion. Coach Booth believed in himself and in his players. Sometimes, he would scold us for bad play and mental errors, but he always brought positive criticism to bear for increased performance and to instill better knowledge of the game. He was a fierce competitor who hated to lose, yet he managed his teams with special care and gave unparalleled thought to team cooperation and the realistic roles of every team member. I never went into a game with Coach Booth that I thought I was going to lose. Sometimes, he knew me better than I knew myself, and he often held up a mirror to make me see this -- he simply taught me my best role on every team. I really can't tell you how an individual succeeds so well. Coach Booth brought us confidence in our "game." We learned that first, we mentally won the game before stepping on the field; and second, all the skillful plays executed and extra effort expended from the first minute of every game to the last sealed a victory. Our teams under Coach Booth were not ruthless, but they were fiercely driven to finish off an opponent, never giving them an opportunity to "get off the mat" once down. Coach Booth knew this was also great preparation for life. I have thought about why Coach Booth was such a great, competitive coach many, many times. The answer remains somewhat elusive -- like all great coaches, he was one of a kind. He was likable but no nonsense in his approach. Once something had been taught and learned, he expected execution every time. Coach Booth met bonehead, lazy efforts with distaste and a kick in the pants. He expected players to follow his instructions with precision and had a knack for explaining exactly how to defeat an opponent. Coach Booth was calculating, always animate, and looking for an edge. We knew to follow his lead and trusted his judgment, no matter how much we might disagree at the time. To make a long story a little shorter, I would say that Coach Booth instilled a reputation of winning in his players that once felt, lasted. With him at the helm, we could concentrate on playing the game as it should be played -- both mentally and physically. He was able to maintain his relationship of coach to player and not some silly "peer" status. At times we cussed him (always under our breath), and at times he cussed our play (as much as the times allowed); however, we wanted to play better and we knew when we deserved his wrath, it was coming with our betterment in mind. I loved playing ball for him. He taught me little things about playing that few knew. The longer I played for Coach Booth, I was convinced he could read my mind. That was how well he knew his players. Coach Booth won an Ohio State High School Baseball Championship in 1975. Although this might have been his crowning achievement in coaching, his players for many years remember him as "the best coach they have ever had." This speaks volumes for the man and his character. I'm glad to have gotten the opportunity to play for the gentleman. He deserves the praise so lovingly given him.
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