The Coaching Academy: A Playbook For Success
Michael Park ’73 walked onto the Texas A&M University campus for the first time in fall of 1968, a year before the College of Education was founded.
He came to the university with a dream of playing football, eventually earning a spot on the team as a walk-on. At the end of his college football career, he received the honor of varsity football letterman. He realized that some of his fellow student athletes struggled with their future after graduation.
“I think it’s just a real tragedy that you have a young person receive incredible athletic training, and then at 22 or 23 years old, they take their uniform off and are completely cut off from athletics other than maybe their own kids’ sports endeavors,” Park explained. “That’s a terrible waste in my view. You have wonderful training that can be put to good use at the public school level.”
Park is fond of coaching at the public school level because his father was a high school football coach.
“Coaches touch thousands of young lives positively, which is the main reason I have been very passionate about it,” Park said.
Park’s father eventually became superintendent of the school where he coached. Park hopes future and current coaches in the Coaching Academy will develop the skills to gain confidence on the job. He hopes they can move up the ranks to leadership positions in schools like his father did.
“There are no better leaders, in my view, than some trained athletes. They’re terrific leaders in a school setting, and they can lead positively,” Park said.
In a conversation with R.C. Slocum, former Texas A&M head football coach, the topic of effective leadership in coaching came up.
Together, they realized there might be a demand for a program at Texas A&M to support students who want to coach.
“You have an incredible resource in these young athletes who have received some of the best athletic training,” Park said. “That training can be put to good use in coaching at the public school level.”
In November 2012, Dr. John Thornton became director of the Texas A&M Coaching Academy. Park gifted a generous donation in 2013. The donation helped develop the project under the leadership of Dr. Thornton. He noted that Dr. Thornton was the best thing to happen for the development of the academy.
“He was given this project to run with. You could not have a better leader for the program than John, he is just fantastic,” Park said.
Dr. Thornton is a former Texas A&M Interim Head Basketball Coach and Athletic Director. He currently serves as an executive professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology. He expanded the goals of the academy to include preparing non-athlete students for coaching and providing support for current coaches at the public school, university and practitioner levels.
Dr. Thornton recently announced the academy will hold a Coaching Academy Leadership Summit to benefit future and current coaches. The event will take place at the Student Recreation Center on November 26, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The summit will offer a series of seminars and keynotes addressing topics and issues that coaches encounter.
“The summit will be continuing education for current coaches, and also provide a forum and platform that promotes the coaching profession and the impact that coaches make on individuals, teams and communities,” Dr. Thornton said.
The support from the coaching academy will also promote a positive impact on the kids in public schools. The academy trains coaches how to build character and transfer life skills to kids in need of a role model.
Another significant donor, Malcolm Stewart ‘73, shared his motives for becoming involved in the academy.
“All us who have participated in athletics in some form, understand the importance of a coach,” Stewart said. “Coaches teach young people in athletics that if they work hard, they can be successful.”
Stewart also supports other college initiatives, including global study programs and STEM summer camps. He looks forward to the impact the Texas A&M Coaching Academy will have on current and future coaches. He said the academy is an important program for coaches to receive support in their journey as a coach.
The Coaching Academy provides resources and creates opportunities for current students through classes, networking and teacher certification help.
Park’s experience as a former student athlete drives his passion for helping current student athletes. He hopes participants in the academy and summit will develop their passions to influence the lives of others.
“You need to involve your life’s work or your vocation in something that you’re passionate about,” Park said. “If it’s working with young people and helping them improve athletically, as an example, and teaching them life skills to grow up to be a productive human being, there can hardly be anything better than that.”
Along with his generous support to the Texas A&M Coaching Academy, in 1991 Michael Park established the Mary Frances and Mance Park Endowed Graduate Fellowship to honor his parents. He is also a member of the College of Education and Human Development’s Dean’s Development Council.
This story originally appeared in the 2018 Transforming Lives magazine, an annual publication from the College of Education and Human Development.
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