There is a Little League field named for my dad in my home town. He did a lot for youth and high school sports when I was a kid and he was also active in Rotary. He was honored with a field in his name.
I get a touch of pride whenever I drive past the field and see his name above the scoreboard. Whenever I venture into new venue I wonder about the person whose name is above that scoreboard.
We have three named stadiums in Manteca – Guss Schmiedt Field, Dino Cunial Stadium and Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. I know of Guss Schmiedt only through what I have read. I may have met Dino Cunial once or twice, but I have known his son and son’s family for years.
But Daniel is a different story. While many of the kids playing on the field that bears his name were not even born when he died, I knew him quite well. He was without a doubt the best high school running back I have seen – and he died in a car accident before his junior year.
His last game was at Los Banos. Before the game the Tigers – class act that they were – were doing a tremendous amount of trash talking aimed at Daniel – some not fit for reprint here. He was genuinely scared and asked me, “Coach, what do I do?”
I told him it was simple – just let his running do his talking for him. And did he make it look simple. He had the first two carries for Sierra that night – and totaled 149 yards with a pair of touchdowns on those two touches.
(I drug my daughter to the game that night – she really did not want to go. She is so grateful now that she got to see Daniel’s last game.)
The following summer I was splitting my time between coaching duties and working at out-of-town football camps. At my last practice before heading for San Luis Obispo, a first-year coach and I had practice that evening. He was of a hard nose, and Daniel and another kid got there late. The coach made them run a lap, and running laps was not much of a specialty of Daniel so I would peg his effort that night as a slow jog. That did not work for the other coach.
The coach really had no idea who Daniel was, and when he finished his lap Daniel got ripped up one side and down the other. And while my memory has faded over the years, I believe there were threats made about his continuing with the team.
To his credit, Daniel said nothing but then sought me out and started to complain. I cut him off, told him he was wrong and that where he was headed there were many more coaches like the other guy and not very many like me. I told him that here he was a massive fish in a tiny pond but soon he would be with nothing but massive fish, so he had to put out maximum effort at all times. He nodded his head, thanked me, and ran off. That was the last we would ever speak as he would be dead a few days later.
Why am I writing this? Above when I mentioned that Daniel said nothing back to the coach, that was a credit to his family. The youngest of four brothers, if he had ever popped off to a coach they would have handled it, and if there was anything left for his parents to grab a hold of, they would have done so too.
I have seen a lot of big fish in the years, and unfortunately, not many of them have a family behind them like the Teicheiras. They talk back to coaches, fight with teammates, do what they want, when they want. But they are so good that the coaches let them get away with it. Heck, some of the coaches are worse than they are!
Then these big fishes – minus their entourages – go away to a big-name school and most do not make it. They expect to be the top dog right out of the gate, but they are a freshman in a Division I program and need to learn a little humility. Some cannot grasp that and blow an opportunity thousands would give anything to have.
Granted, there are some that are truly good enough to get away with that crap all the way into the pros, and sadly, the youth of today try to emulate their antics.
I have a friend who is a coach and he told me the other day he was just plain tired. Tired of kids not listening, tired of coaches not doing what they should – just plain tired. I told him that is why I was on the side of the lens that I was on because I could not understand a game where kids had to be externally motivated to play.
So to you coaches out there who have a handle on things, congratulations. You have navigated a course that gets tougher by the day. But to you coaches out there who let the kids run wild with no repercussions for their actions, do the game a favor and get the hell out. I would say you owe it to yourselves, but that would not mean much.
You owe it to the future Daniels of the world, to those who will succeed and do so with dignity.