National High School Coaches Association

The Luckiest Coach

The Luckiest Coach
By Coach Cliff Ramos

I bet you Michael Johnson's high school track coach thought he was the luckiest coach in the world. Or perhaps the high school coaches of Herschel Walker, Larry Bird, Barry Bonds and Dan Gable thought they were the most fortunate for having a "one of a kind" athlete on their team. Well, they were all wrong. I am the luckiest coach anywhere because I have Kyle Maynard on my wrestling team.

Who is Kyle Maynard? Kyle Maynard has been my JV 95 / 103 pounder for the last two years. This past season, his sophomore year, Kyle raised his total JV record to 28-8 after winning the King of the JV Hill Tournament, the largest and toughest junior varsity tournament in Georgia.

So Kyle has a pretty decent high school career going, but how can I say that he makes me the luckiest coach anywhere? Well, he has this physical condition which hinders him at times. Oh, I know there are many stories of handicapped athletes who have been successful, like some state wrestling champions or national champions with one or no legs. Sorry, Kyle sets the standard for physically impaired athletes who have experienced success.

Kyle was born with no legs, only two small feet turned at weird angles where the tops of the femurs are supposed to be. That can be a pretty severe handicap, but try wrestling with no legs ... and no fingers, no hands and no elbows! He was born with stubs for arms that stop a few inches above where his elbows should be. So basically, Kyle competes using a neck, two shoulders, a very intelligent brain, and an enormous heart.

And he wins. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle has two successful JV seasons under his belt. He actually has a chance to be our varsity 103 pounder for at least part of the time over the next two seasons. And that is on a team which has one state championship and two third place finishes over the last three years in the state's largest classification.

We have tried to invent and reinvent when it comes to technique for Kyle. But almost all of the credit for the "inventions" goes to Kyle. Most conventional moves do not work for him, so Kyle will do some pretty strange things on the mat. Sometimes it looks like he is doing a breakdance right before he leeches on to a leg.

Don't feel sorry for Kyle - he might be the meanest kid on our team (but only while competing). He uses his head and face like a battering ram and his arms like little clubs. The opponents who feel sorry for him usually end up bleeding and watching the referee raise Kyle's arm after the match.

Do be amazed by Kyle. I'm amazed every day I see him. I am amazed when I see him "run" with the rest of the team, which for Kyle is more like a bear crawl. I am amazed when I see him eat with forks and spoons. I am amazed when I see him write with much better "handwriting" than anyone on the team. I am amazed when I see him type at the computer faster then a lot of people ... he is also an "A" student in all honors classes.

But I am most amazed when I see him in our wrestling room ... which brings me back to the point I previously made about being the luckiest coach in the world. Kyle is an inspiration to the coaches and the wrestlers on our team every single day. He doesn't miss practice. He never complains. He is one of the more vocal leaders on the team. He jokes around and horseplays just like any other kid (he is especially good at the age-old prank of sneaking up behind someone to let an accomplice push someone over him). And on a scale of one to ten for being a hard worker, Kyle is a 10.

And there have been numerous instances where I have used Kyle as an example and a teaching tool ... A couple of examples: A kid might come to me during a grueling practice and say, "Coach, my knee is killing me. Can I sit out and ice it?" If I think the knee problem is minor, I'll point at Kyle and say, "I bet he wouldn't mind having a bad knee right now. Do you think you could wait until the end of practice for the ice?" Or another kid might inquire about sitting out due to a hyperextended elbow, and I'll look at Kyle and say, " I imagine he would take two hyperextended elbows for just one day." The kid's elbow usually starts feeling a little better.

I have been coaching for 26 years and have never coached or seen a kid who has a bigger impact on the people with whom he has contact - not just the young people and adults in our wrestling program: people associated with any opposing team are amazed and inspired as well. Therefore, I think I am correct when I say I am the luckiest coach in the world. Well not exactly. I am not lucky. I have been blessed. God has sent a blessing to a wrestling team in Suwanee, Georgia, in the form of a two and a half-foot tall giant of a person.