I know not everyone shares my opinion. Every great person has people who don’t get them. Lincoln had half a country against him. Socrates was put on trial. Martin Luther King Jr. met his fate. They were all larger than life, and to me, he is the same. He’s touched the lives of countless children, both in the schools and out. I never had the opportunity to call him my principal, but I’m happy I called him coach. Nine years. Scratch that, his impact is ongoing, make it twenty-eight years and counting.
When I first met him I was fragile. He was a mountain. His voice echoed in the Eastside cafeteria. He commanded attention. He took mine. He took all of ours. Even though he was loud, he had a soft side. He taught us how to walk on our hands, how to do cartwheels, howto do “the step of champions.” He knew how to illustrate what we were doing in a way that made it funny, like peeing on the ceiling. We all tried to emulate him, even though it made us giggle. When we got too rowdy, all he had to do was give us a look, and we stopped. That look still haunts me. I am still scared of it.
He didn’t coach for money, in fact I’m pretty sure he donated everything he ever made back to the program that gave him so much joy. He built men out of little boys. He molded us into something that we were not. He gave us strength, not through the push-ups, but in our minds. He taught us that we could be as good as we wanted to as long as we work hard to get there. He taught us that practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice does. He loved us. He didn’t tell us that, but we knew.
He brought us into his magical world with his stories. Those of us that listened learned a great deal about life. We could have all won by a pin in 30 seconds, but he would find something that we could have done differently to make it 20 seconds. That’s one of the biggest lessons he taught us. He taught us that no matter how good you get at something, you could do it better, and never to rest, because there is someone out there that isn’t.
I’ve tried to emulate his style, but I can’t. I’m not him. There will never be another him. All I can do is take the tools that he gave me and pass them down. Hopefully, someone who I have taught will do the same someday. That way we can have future generations of Eastside wrestlers. Until then, I will keep passing his lessons down, trying to make men out of boys trying to teach about perfect practice. I won’t rest because someone out there isn’t.
There are heroes among us. They may not be yours, but they may be someone’s. Recognize that the things you do for people may seem unnoticed, but there is someone who appreciates what you are doing. There is someone who will look back when they make it to adulthood and realize one of the reasons they had such a great childhood was you.
The biggest thing Mr. Mickle taught me was to look in the mirror after a match and ask myself if I did my best. When my time comes to an end, I want to be able to say yes. That is all we can ask for.
Thank you, Mr. Mickle.