I am the son of a coach, raised on the field of a highly successful football program. Becoming a winner or better yet, a champion, could only be done one way; through commitment, toughness, intensity, unwavering discipline and dismissing those who could not adhere. Success and self-worth could be measured by only two things: wins and losses. My life was football and I was motivated selfishly by my own prideful gain. I wanted to be known as a “successful” coach. This way of thinking left little room for consideration when it came to the things that I said or how I acted on the football field. Over my six years in Houston, these words and actions have caused my character to come into question. Many times I justified the things that I had done as a necessary evil, a tactic to prepare my players for the harshness of Friday nights. The truth is, I have always loved those young men who played for me, but my immaturity and selfishness only allowed me to see them as players: X’s and O’s.
Novemember 23, 2013, my world had officially been turned upside down. I stood at the front of Houston First United Methodist Church and watched a beautiful little redheaded maid of honor walk down the aisle. Miss Rivers Nelson was about to bring my life full circle and destroy the way I had thought about everything. That night, I married her mother, Kati, and I could not help feeling like I was standing on the other side of an event that had already taken place. On March 9, 1996, I was a little boy carrying rings down the aisle of my mother’s wedding. It had been just my mother for so long and now she was marrying a football coach, who in my eyes was larger than life. It wasn’t until I was standing in my stepfather’s shoes a little over five months ago that I truly understood what it felt like to be a winner, a champion.
I feel blessed every day that Katie trusted me enough to allow me to share a life with her and Rivers. A life that I quickly realized was full of adversity, a need for toughness, discipline, patience, but above all love and respect. The trust that Kati had in me to help raise Rivers is no different than the trust that parents have when it comes to me coaching their sons. I have often thought how I would feel if I saw someone conduct themselves around Rivers the way I had conducted myself at times around the young men I have coached.
I am truly sorry for breaking that trust.
I believe football is one of the greatest things a young man can experience to help prepare him for life. Many of our players come from a household absent of a father or significant male figure. The only true male influence comes on the football field; this is where I want to have my success. I want our players to leave me knowing how to conduct themselves as disciplined, productive, trustworthy and loving gentlemen. I want them to be better sons and even better fathers. Ultimately, I want them to be something that Rivers has allowed me to understand. I want them to be men that I would feel are worthy enough to share a life with my daughter.
I want to help shape young men of the highest caliber and I realize that I have to do that by example. Helping fathers and mothers to raise men of character, men that Houston can be proud of.
That is how I want my success as a coach to be measured.
Coty Cox is a teacher and football coach at Houston High School.