Coby Tyson views his career as Venus High School head coach and athletic director as more than racking up wins and filling the trophy case.
He has a more far-reaching agenda - and that is to instill values of discipline, hard work and character into the boys who play for him.
“I believe that if kids know how to deal with adversity (in high school sports) they will be better prepared to deal with adversities in life,” Tyson said.
One of his inspirations is the movie, “Rudy,” which tells the story of a diminutive boy from Joliet, Ill., who tenaciously worked his way against all odds toward his one big dream of just running onto the field with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Tyson said he’s seen the movie several times.
“In fact, I have it right over there in the shelf,” said Tyson, who brings up the story of a young boy he coached at one of his former schools in Gorman, Texas.
“This kid weighed 98 pounds when he was 16 years old,” Tyson said. “He played quarterback. He was not big and he wasn’t all that talented (of an athlete) but he was so coachable and would spend literally hours and hours doing whatever it took to play.
“He came from a very difficult background. He never knew his dad and he had to work every free minute he had, but he played every sport,” Tyson said. “By the time he was a senior, he had worked out and had beefed himself up to 108 pounds. I still keep in contact with him. He wants to continue his college education and one day become a coach, but for the time being, he’s having to work in order to put his sister through school.
“If I were financially able, I would put him through college myself,” he said.
Tyson believes strongly that if young people really want to succeed in life and show enough determination and character, there will be plenty of people around to help them.
“I believe that a coach must lift the standards high to give them something to strive for, rather than lower the standards to meet them,” Tyson said, noting that at first a number of boys will drop out of athletics, but as time progresses, that drop-out number decreases as they come to understand what is expected of them.
“I tell the boys to aspire for more, but fulfill the role you have,” he said, citing the tendency among some players to desire positions with the most glory and the life lesson of seeking to excel even if they are not in a place to be noticed.
Tyson graduated from Golthwaite High School in Central Texas, where he played running back, defensive back and was also a punter and kicker. He dreamed of playing for the University of Texas, but went to Howard Payne University in Brownwood on a football scholarship instead. Upon graduation, he embarked upon a career that has taken him to several small high schools, most of which were, in his words, “turn-arounds.”
“My first job was at Bartlett, where I was a baseball coach and, from there, I coached in Reisel, Texas, as a boy’s track coach,” Tyson said. “My first position as athletic director and head coach was at Pettus, where I started out with a totally new coaching staff.”
Recalling that Pettus won only one game in 29 the previous year, Tyson said the team experienced a turn-around and it was a good first-season for him, even winning the first homecoming game since 1973.
“If we had remained 1A we would have had a great season,” Tyson said of the next year, when the team moved up to 2A, setting its record back some.
When Tyson went to Gorman to be head coach and athletic director, the team was coming off of two straight losing seasons and school enrollment had declined from 154 the previous year to 117 his first year.
“One of the peanut mills shut down during the third year I was there and I was only working with 22-28 kids in the football program,” he said. “But even at that, we finished third in district three times and I was honored to be named Coach of the Year for two years.”
Tyson describes Venus as a turn-around project similar to Gorman in that he is starting out with a new staff.
“Seventeen out of 21 of our athletic department staff are new this year,” Tyson said. “And I continue to base everything on discipline and work ethic - the kids know they have to rise up to it.
“They know they have to spend so much time in the weight room working out and the discipline doesn’t stop there,” he said. “They know how they must act (off the field). They have to have a haircut, no earrings, shirts tucked in and they have to shave - no facial hair.”
Tyson said he will be keeping a sharp eye on the younger boys coming up because he believes that reaching back to the junior high age and concentrating on grooming them early will pay dividends as they enter high school. He said he knows he will likely lose a few early on because there are always a few who do not want to comply.
“But we’ll go to battle for the kids who are willing to make the sacrifices,” Tyson said.
The work will not be an overnight process, said Tyson, who says he’s in it for the long haul. He said he believes Venus has a great future and he notes the strong support he receives from the school administration and the school board.
“We have 58 kids in our football program now,” he said. “If we keep growing and developing, I can see the day when Venus will be playing 4A football.”
E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.