From Athlete to Coach
My Experience as a Coach – Mike Kelley
There comes a point when an athlete hangs up their playing shoes and questions what they could do next in their lives. After thinking about it for some period of time, there is that choice to become a coach and pass along their experience on the sport to younger athletes. When that time came for me, I knew that coaching could be an option to think about and that it was my calling. If I didn’t think about being a coach, I don’t know what I would do when I stopped being an athlete. The experience of being a coach taught me how to pass along my experience to others, see the development of one or more athletes, and giving them something to learn about when playing that sport.
In the fall of 2014, just a few months after I graduated at Auburn High School, I came back to be an assistant coach on the Varsity football program. Since then, I was of great help on the staff, including leading the stretches and managing the scout offense. Before I came back to be a coach, I played in my last football game on November 15, 2013 against David Prouty High School where I recorded my first and only tackle for a loss as a varsity player. After that game when I hung up my cleats, I wasn’t sure what to do after I graduated but had the mindset to see if I could be a coach while attending college. If I didn’t have that mindset, then I would’ve just done my 4 years of college and done my career to this day.
When it came to the questions why I chose to become a coach after my playing career, I was able to think of a lot of reasons why. One reason was it has been in my family for years and it seemed like a great tradition. My father Stephen, one of my biggest role models, has been a coach for the majority of his life from the soccer fields to the basketball courts and was able to pass along that gene to not only me but my brother James, now an assistant A.D at Brooks School in North Andover. Another reason why I chose to coach was because I wanted to give back to Auburn for what it did for me, especially giving me the opportunity to participate in varsity athletics. My former football coach, Jeff Cormier, another huge role model in my life, coached me in football for 3 years, sophomore to senior year, and one thing he taught me in the game was to believe in myself and know that whatever challenge that comes my way, I can succeed at them as long as I work hard and give it the very best. With the help of these men, I was able to pass along these words of advice to other athletes and see them succeed as well.
Whenever I coach an athlete, I can see how well they progress over the course of each season or year throughout their high school career. One of the best times I coach is when an athlete is either a freshman or sophomore and they learn from the sport and improve on their experience throughout their careers. One athlete I have seen progress throughout his/her career under my coaching is Elyse Whittemore, member of the 2020 class at Auburn High. Since she started competing in shot put as a freshman on the Unified Track team in 2017, she has pushed herself to play at her best. No matter what the results were, she kept her head up high and remained positive, showing everyone what a true champion she is, no matter the outcome. If I didn’t have an athlete like Elyse, then I would not be able to have an athlete who is inspiring and hard working.
Before I became a coach, there was one thing I learned that coaches do when they coach an athlete. One thing I learned is that coaches use their sport as a tool to help build an athlete’s character, a way to help them become successful individuals when they get older. Whether it is being a successful employee, a loving parent, or caring spouse, it is all about the commitment you make that can lead to any endeavor athletes wish to succeed at. After learning about this kind of advice, it got me thinking of how I can teach it to my athletes and watch them succeed further on. In addition, it also gave me the inspiration to write a quote about what a champion is from my perspective.
“A champion isn’t the person with the best talent, it’s the one who refuses to give up.”
Mike Kelley is a 2014 graduate of Auburn High School in Auburn, Massachusetts and played on the Varsity football team for 3 seasons as the first special needs student to play on the team. He is now an assistant coach of the Auburn High School Unified Track & Field team. He competes in Special Olympics Massachusetts in the sports of bowling, swimming, basketball, flag football and softball and is a student at Worcester State University studying communications.