There’s been plenty of time for reflection over the last few days. Sitting in an edit bay, rolling through hours of video and pulling interviews and even locker room speeches with Coach Thomas. I watched video I had seen countless times with a new perspective.
Every time I’ve lost someone, I’ve always wished for one more chance to tell them just how much they really meant to me. And I have to imagine that many people wish they had that one last chance with Coach Ed Thomas.
The day Coach Thomas died, I was on Facebook, looking through comments posted to a memorial group in his honor. While I was logged on, a former teacher and mentor sent me a quick message through Facebook chat. We didn’t talk about anything terribly important, and I didn’t think much of the conversation until I got home that night and sat in my bed, trying to process the day’s events.
The teacher who I had casually chatted with earlier in the day is the Coach Thomas in my life. In fact, as a former baseball coach, the title had stuck and we still called him coach. Just like Thomas was arguably one of the greatest high school football coaches in the country, my coach was also the best in his field.
Dave Davis is a teacher at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Missouri. He started one of the first high school broadcast program in the country, and after 20 years, has established a tradition of excellence that includes holding the record for the most NSPA Broadcast Pacemaker Awards and an Emmy. Anyone in the country who teaches broadcast journalism at the high school level has certainly heard of Davis, if not sought advice from him. I remember the first journalism conference I attended with him. He was like a rockstar and we were his entourage. And while we as high schoolers basked in the recognition and fame, Coach was quick to remind us that the school’s reputation was the result of years of excellence, that it was much bigger than us. And that recognition could easily be lost if we did not demand excellence of ourselves.
To those outside our broadcast circle, Davis’ demands seemed impossible. But, for those on his staff, we knew that countless students had survived before us, and that if we gave him our best, we would survive too. And Coach never asked more of his students than he was willing to give of himself. He was the first one there in the morning and the last to leave the studio at night.
Davis’ high standards and honest sarcasm became part of our bond. Working long hours and rushing against deadlines tends to cause a closeness among the staff, but I know that Coach and I were especially close because I was a “news nerd.” As editor-in-chief of the newspaper and a reporter on his broadcast staff, news was more than an elective credit for me.
Even now, I’m struggling to put into words what Davis has meant to me. In the six years since I’ve graduated, Davis has remained a friend, a mentor and even a teacher. When I’m out in the field shooting, or in the edit bay, I still use his simple lessons as the building blocks for my daily work. On the days when I’m at my worst, I often cringe to think what Coach would say, and on the days where I’m at my best, I feel a little prouder knowing that he checks in on me and is proud of what I do. While many people have shaped me into the person I am today, I can say with certainty I would not be in the tv business without Davis in my life.
And so, for all of those who never had the chance to properly thank Coach Thomas, and in his memory, I am taking the opportunity to thank my coach. And I hope that each of you will do the same.
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This post was written by jjarvis on June 29, 2009