Updated date:

A Humorous Lesson In Humility

Marcy is a school counselor at an alternative school in Illinois. Other than education and her family, her passion has always been writing.

Some Background

As a coach, my dad had a gift for motivating his athletes and sizing up his competition. The people who know my dad best know he loves to tell stories, and in these stories, he tends to brag. He is not, however, a typical braggart. His accolades most often honor his athletes and not himself because most great coaches know that their abilities have limits. The performance, ultimately, falls on the athlete.

He was a contradiction of terms. He was confident and proud, yet an underlying current of humility ran in his veins.

Back when he was coaching, my dad would not think of bragging until the competition was over. There was always an air of mystery about my dad that way. He was a contradiction of terms. He was confident and proud, yet an underlying current of humility ran in his veins. He always considered bragging in the moment to be poor sportsmanship, not to mention lousy strategy.

The following is a true story of patience on my dad's part. It is also a lesson in humility for his rival coach.

The Effingham Invitational Cross Country Meet

The lesson begins at the Effingham Invitational Cross Country meet in the fall of 1978. That was the year Mike Jackson was a senior. Even though Blue Mound was a small school, Mike was known around the state as a standout runner.

The Effingham Invitational hosted schools from all over central and southern Illinois. The size of the school didn't matter. Good runners from small schools could attend if they felt they could run with the big dogs. The thing about the larger schools is they often completely underestimated the runners who attended from small schools. Most coaches, however, did their research, and in 1978 they knew Blue Mound was coming with a contender. But there was one coach from down around St. Louis who didn't know anything about Blue Mound High School, Coach McDonald, or Mike Jackson.

a-lesson-about-humility

An Unlikely Friendship

Just prior to the start of the meet, my dad befriended the coach of that St. Louis team. This was an unusual friendship of two opposite coaches. The St. Louis coach was dressed in a flashy tracksuit and wore a fancy wristwatch that he could use as a stopwatch. He was loud and overly confident, and he could not stop talking about his start runner, Timmy. My dad, I'm certain, wore blue jeans, Red Wing boots, and a Blue Mound Knights hat. He was probably also wearing Ray Bans to conceal his game face.

When the St. Louis coach was bragging on and on about his boy, my dad was quietly sizing up Mike's competition. Not long after the start gun sounded, the boisterous coach asked my dad if he wanted to ride in his golf cart to the mile checkpoint. Finding the conversation intriguing so far, my dad got in the cart and headed to the mile marker with his talkative companion.

My dad was secretly enjoying his pain and feeling a little vindicated for having to endure all the prideful boasts of Timmy's greatness.

The Race Is On

When they arrived at the mile checkpoint, the St. Louis coach moved with a great gesture to check the elaborate stopwatch on his wrist.

"My boy ought to be coming around that corner about now," he boasted. "He hasn't been beaten all year."

My dad recalled hearing that statement -- my boy hasn't been beaten all year -- more than a few times on their cart ride. It was probably pretty hard for him to refrain from mentioning a few facts and statistics about his own boy, but he did.

When the first runner emerged from the woods, it was Mike, and in all honesty, my dad was a little relieved. In a complete and utter state of confusion, his cart-buddy bellowed, "Hey! That's not my boy!"

With a grin, my dad replied, "I know. That's my boy."


Mike Jackson finishing first place as a sophomore in the District Cross Country Meet, Kiwanis Park, Decatur, IL.

Mike Jackson finishing first place as a sophomore in the District Cross Country Meet, Kiwanis Park, Decatur, IL.

The Atmosphere Changes

The big city coach was dumbfounded. A little more guarded now he headed the cart to the second-mile marker. This checkpoint was laid out much like the first, where the runners emerged from around a wooded corner, so the leader was a well-kept secret through most of the second-mile leg of the race.

In only a few minutes, the atmosphere in the cart had drastically changed. The once boastfully confident big city coach suddenly seemed insecure, quiet, and maybe a little embarrassed. The anticipation of not knowing who would emerge from the woods was excruciating for Timmy's mentor. My dad was secretly enjoying his pain and feeling vindicated for having to endure all the previous prideful boasts of Timmy's greatness. The big city coach checked his watch and scoured the edge of the woods, fearing the outcome. Once again the leader of the pack came thundering out of the woods, and it was not Timmy.

The high school where my dad spent his career is being renovated here after consolidation with a neighboring school district.

The high school where my dad spent his career is being renovated here after consolidation with a neighboring school district.

A Lesson in Humility

"Your boy is good. But can he finish?" the nervous coach asked.

"Yep," my dad replied, trying not to show his emotions.

By this time, Timmy had cleared the woods, and his coach was yelling, "Catch him, Timmy! He's a finisher! He's for real!"

And they were off to the finish line. The best part of Mike's race was always the last leg. If Timmy hadn't closed the gap by now, he wasn't going to. Yet his coach remained optimistic.

"My boy hasn't been beaten all year. He's gonna finish strong." He sounded overly compelling like he was trying to convince himself.

Unlike the first and second miles of the race, the finish line was a long, visible stretch, and by this time, the spectators could see the race leader in his final kick. It was Mike, and he had stretched his lead over the competition. The St. Louis coach was livid. "Come on, Timmy! Catch him! Catch him!" But his rants were in vain. Timmy was too far back, and Mike's final kick was too strong. As Mike crossed the finish line in record time, my dad turned to Timmy's coach. In a calm and matter-of-fact tone, he said what he'd been dying to say all morning long: "That's my boy! He hasn't been beaten all year!"

My dad and I on vacation about 2011. He is wearing his Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame hat. He was inducted in the hall in 1993.

My dad and I on vacation about 2011. He is wearing his Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame hat. He was inducted in the hall in 1993.

This story appears in a collection I wrote for my dad in 2012.

Comments

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 08, 2020:

Thanks Dora, I'm glad you liked it. Thank you, John. Yes, my dad was a great coach. My stories about him are easy to write. I have great material.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on May 07, 2020:

What a delightful story and true lesson in “confident” humility. I always believe there is a big advantage in using the “underdog”status as a surprise tactic, and to never boast until the race has been run. Great article. It is obvious your dad was a wonderful coach.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 06, 2020:

Great story! It demonstrated your title very ; at the same time it taught a valuable lesson.

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 04, 2020:

Well, not everyone gets to play against Snoop Dog's son...just sayin'.

Kyler J Falk from Corona, CA on May 04, 2020:

I don't think I could pull off a riveting story about the game like you did here, other than that short little set of details. One second they are cocky, the next second we are stomping them so hard they had no chance. I mean we ran it back on them on the first kickoff, after that it's all the same thing over and over.

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 04, 2020:

Thanks Jim! It's 100% totally true! My dad tells it better than I can write it. I had good material to begin with...lol.

Jim Henderson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi on May 04, 2020:

Great personal story. I love a story where the ending gets turned on its' head like that.

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 04, 2020:

Yes, he was an amazing coach and a great dad, too. That's why I initially had to write the book and get all his stats in order.

If you haven't already written a story about the football game, you should. And I agree 100% that getting cocky only makes the opponent fight harder.

Kyler J Falk from Corona, CA on May 04, 2020:

HAHAHAHAHA! The ending had me rolling with laughter, and what a great way to end it strong; truly your father must have been an amazing coach and moreover a wonderful man!

This story made me recall fond memories of a football game where we played against Snoop Dogg's son's school, his son was the quarterback. During our pre-game warm-ups the opposing coaches had their team come running through our stretch lines, then during our final pow-wow before the game started they came and encircled us and started chanting. Boy, they were confident.

We goose-egged them! Final score: 43-0

Never understood why people get cocky, even as a way to get in your opponent's head it only serves to make them fight harder!

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 04, 2020:

Thank you, Liz. My dad has a lot of funny and some tragic stories from his career. I enjoyed writing the book and now revisiting the stories. Thanks again for your kind comment.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 04, 2020:

This is a great story. I love the way the tables were turned. You have retold this story in a compelling way so that the reader gets drawn in to the drama.