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Feb. 22, 2022

Everyone Has a Story to Tell | Jon Kerr & Joe Aguilar

Everyone Has a Story to Tell | Jon Kerr & Joe Aguilar

#29.  In this unique episode, we're talking about what transformational coaching looks like from the vantage point of the media. Welcome to our two guests, Jon Kerr, publisher of the Kerr report, a newsletter about athletics and education, and Joe Aguilar, Shaw Media copy editor/page designer and ABC7-TV & Ultimate Autographs on-camera contributor. Hosts of their own podcast, The Jon and Joe Show, Kerr & Aguilar have over 30 years experience covering professional, collegiate, and high school sports.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The unique vantage point of the sideline reporter
  • Character traits of the great coaches
  • The power/importance of telling someone's story
  • What makes HS sports so special

Resources from this episode:

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Review The "I" in Win on Apple Podcast or my website to let me know what you think of the show.  Follow me on Twitter (@LukeMertens)

Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 29 of The "I" in Win podcast

Joe:

I've always found it amazing that of all the kids I talked to. Like I always looked at it as like, it's a privilege that this kid, especially a high school kid, is gonna let me tell his story and hopefully represent him correctly

Luke:

Hello, and welcome to The "I" in Win. The show that focuses on why coaches should embrace the journey of impacting lives. I'm your host, Luke Mertens. And today we're going to talk about what transformational coaching looks like from the vantage point of not the coach, but the media. Welcome to our two guests, John Kerr, publisher of the Kerr report, a newsletter about athletics and education and Shaw media copy editor page designer and ABC seven TV contributor Joe Aguilar. Between the two of them. Thousands of athletes have gotten that awesome experience and excitement of seeing their names in print. I'm gonna start with you, Joe, given all your years, reporting on high school sports. Explain the special vantage point you've had watching these athletes compete.

Joe:

Well, first of all, thanks for having John and me on. Luke. Good to see you here. you know, it's funny Luke, because I've covered the, the Bears too. You sit in the press box, you only feed your food, but when you're covering high school sports being on a sideline, I've always been a guy. Who walks the sidelines when I covered high school football games for 30 plus years. I just loved the perspective. You see a lot more, you hear a lot more there oftentimes where I've had to decipher, you know, can I use that? Is that innocuous enough? What, I just heard a give and take with a coach or a player or a player comment. But I just love the vantage point and the sounds of the game, so to speak, it's something that the fans, whether you're watching a high school, college or pro football game, really don't get the opportunity, even if a high school game where you were sitting relatively close. But I just love to see that dynamic. And, you know, I've always described myself as, um, just a person who tells stories. So, what better way than to be up close and personal. And, you know, as long as you don't get hit, there are a couple of times where man, I thought I was going to get run over and injured, but, that never happened fortunately.

Luke:

Well, you're lucky because I have been the victim of some of that. And you don't realize how fast those dudes are moving at you and it's it's wild. Cause you see them come. And you're trying to get out of the way, but the problem is, is all my players are behind me. So I'm like back up and I'm trying to get out of the way. So that was always a fun thing we did on Saturday film is we would look for the, uh, the shrapnel of coaches going down and being taken out by players. So, John, uh, you two have have had a really important, point of view, experience athletics, both as a member of the media and also as a coach. So let's start with the coaching perspective. What has been the most rewarding aspect for you being a coach?

Jon:

Well first Luke again, thanks for, having me on. I've been a fan of your show since the beginning, as I love talking to coaches and listening to coaches as, as my partner long-time podcast partner, Joe Aguilar will tell you that's been our life's work and, and learning from coaches on a day-to-day basis. But to answer your question, Yeah. I've been a youth coach for pretty much, most of my life. since I graduated college. I volunteered for RBI baseball in, in the city. Uh when I was in Chicago for a number of years when I was living in Georgia and Michigan, I remember driving to a high school when I was in Michigan said, Hey, you guys need some help to coach baseball. So that's always been a part of kind of who I am, and it's a fun way to volunteer. I've always been a volunteer coach as I do have a day job. And currently I'm a youth, football coach in the lake forest lake bluff area, as well as president of our advisory board. And I think that the perspective, the coaching part brings to me is just more of a sense of humanity and that you're dealing with real people and dealing with athletes on that human level, as opposed to just people that you necessarily have to write about every single day. Right? I mean, Joe and I, for our, and I think what makes Joe, what we miss in media are people like Joe, because Joe in his articles and his columns, Joe made the athlete, the hero of the. It was not about the perspective of the sports writer. It was about the experience of the athlete told through the eyes of that sports writer. I think for me, reading people, like Joe for as long as I have getting to know him as a, as a friend too, I brought that to my writing and to my coaching. And just again, look at it for a more, a more of a human lens and also being a mentor you know, for these young people, which I think is hugely important. We know Luke young men and women need more male or female mentors in their lives, regardless of what their home situation is. Some of it's Good. Some of it's not so good, but they still need other mentors in their lives to help shape them. So, hope it answers.

Luke:

Yeah. So let's talk about that coaching style of philosophy that you've been impacted by. And I agree with you, it's, it's a business of people before it's just sports. Can you give a tangible example, John of. The humanity of it. And it's caused you to kind of stop and think and change what you're doing. And maybe it's ensuring that every kid plays it's, whatever it may be. Can you give an example?

Jon:

Yeah, I'll tell you, specifically an anecdote. This would have been in November of 2013, I was covering the Stevenson Loyola class eight, a semi-final game played in Lincoln Shire freezing day. I was in the press box there with Kevin rider, man, Joe, our old buddy from, pioneer press days, with Matt harness. That was when you had six sports writers at a playoff game, right? It was at Trish Babcock. His wall was there and, Loyola won the game late because John Holocek went for two. It was a defensive struggle. I think the score was might've been 13. I think it was, might've been seven to six, 13 to 12. Loyola scores, late low decides to go for two and they get it with like No. time left. There's two seconds left, whatever it was. Right. So crushing loss for Stevenson and we're waiting outside the locker room, and this is the hardest thing. And well, maybe we'll talk about this liberal later in the show, Luke, for, for sports writers, there's nothing tougher than a playoff ending, losing. It is, it is the weepiness that you can possibly imagine. So we're waiting outside the locker room to talk to these Stevenson players and I'm waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. I think a few of them came out, but not enough for me to be able to file my story. And I'm waiting all of a sudden bill McNamara, who is at the time, the Stevenson coach opens the door and he says, Hey, you want to come in? I said, sure. I'll come in. And they taste me not to the locker room, but to the weight room and in the way. There are a couple of senior captains. One of them being Matt Morrissey, who went to Michigan State, and they are giving their appreciation talks for their career at Stevenson high school and what it meant to them to be a Patriot. And for me to be in that room. And to hear and for a coach to invite me into that very intimate moment. I mean, Luke, you've, you've done this dozens of times in your career, right? That, meant the absolute world to me, to, to be able to experience and to hear that sense of gratitude that these young men had for their experience. And then also the mourning process for them to get over what just happened. Right, which was an impossible loss. So that was a sense of humanity and just a sense of absolute humility. I think from the, from, from that particular coach to invite an outsider into that room and said, you can ride. And I, I remember including that anecdote in my article, which I think added a lot to that particular piece. So that's an example of that comes to mind and it shaped also me as a coach, as a youth coach. It told me it's okay to be, to be fragile in front of your players, that you know, that that was not to be this tough guy coach all the time. It's okay to show a little bit of humility and fragility in front of your players. So that's a moment that comes to mind.

Luke:

Yeah, that's a great story. And I'm glad you got to experience that because it is a very sad moment. Unique moment as a coach, I always hated it because there's nothing you can say, and these players become your sons and you just see them morning and you want to make it go away. Just like any parent does when I see their kid upset, but there's nothing you can do or say to make that moment. Any more enjoyable for the kids. It's really tough, but it also speaks to what high school sports mean on a larger scale. And Joe, I know you've spoken about that last football game a lot. I mean, what are your thoughts on seeing those kids and just the raw emotion you've gotten to experience.

Joe:

Yeah. I mean, you know what? I didn't play high school football. Uh, John did, I played soccer, loved it, have friends from that team 40 years ago to this day. But, high school football. I'm not just saying it's Luke. You're, you know, you're a football coach. There's nothing. High school football. What I've seen as far as the raw emotions at the end of the season. I mean, I've seen oh and nine teams, um, at, at another last game crying on the field. Like they went over nine, but it clearly, it was more than just wins and losses. But I mean, I wish figure, you know, what's the bell vAuto line about if you laugh, cry and, um, smile in, in one day, that's a heck of a day or something like that. It's never forced. I never saw kids like, oh, I guess I should be sad because it's over. And I guess I'll be sad. It was just all raw emotions. And when then when you guys talk about brotherhood, I mean, it's truly believable and, um, you know, to work that hard and a football now is obviously, it's not like when I was in high school, it was like, you did it for three months or whatever. It's a 12 month thing now. That you, pour that much time into something, uh, and you commit and, um, you, you grow as classmates, as teammates, as brothers it's fabulous. I mean, when I lost my last high school soccer game, I wasn't in tears, hugging all my teammates. We were sad. It was over, but it didn't bring out the emotions that I would see every year. So I just always thought that if it made you cry, you cared. And that's a good.

Luke:

Yeah. And you have over 30 years experience Joe in the media. You said you've gotten to work with professional sports as well. What's the difference you have seen your interview someone from the Chicago Bears or whatever professional sports organization doesn't matter. And then you're interviewing a high school athlete. Is there a difference there, or do you see some of those same characteristics and traits?

Joe:

Well, people would say, oh, you mustn't, you covered the bears. That must be a lot of fun. I'm like, yeah, but you know what? It was cool. But I, I had a great time covering lakes in Antioch last night. And that was in a lot of ways. It's more fun because you have access to a high school kid without 20 other reporters, You know, I'll, I'll crunched in like sardines around his locker stall like a pro game. Kids are more real. I've always found it amazing that of all the kids I talked to. Like, I always looked at it as like, it's a privilege that this kid, especially a high school kid, is gonna let me tell his story and hopefully represent him correctly because it's easier to butcher that in some reports. Purposely or not. They, they butcher that, you know, they don't represent who that kid is. So for a kid to like, trust me, like, okay, I'll talk to you and I'll let you tell my story. Maybe he's not thinking about it that deeply, but I am because I want to represent that kid properly. And, so many kids who have were, were so open and real. And then, and I'll tell you what rarely would I have to edit on a kid where like, I probably shouldn't write that. One thing I learned, especially over 30 years, kids are. They have a lot of things to say. Cause oftentimes I would think if I'm going to ask this question, how would I answer it? And so often the, the response that I got back was something I never would've thought of. So I said, well, Luke, you wouldn't underestimate how the thoughts of kids and what their motivation is or how they're thinking. But I think maybe some people, especially early on for me, uh, it was a revelation. I could not have articulated that answered that. I guess the question I just asked better if I would have sat down and tried to write it down for an hour. So I was just love high school athletes and their thoughts. And that's why I wrote about them because they always had stories. I'm like, this is a good story. This is what you said is impactful. People should hear this response from you? Not because I felt like obligated to write about kids, you know, they, they were stories., I mean, that got thousands of stories like John does too. I'm sure. But when kids have interesting things to say, and sometimes the pro athletes are low too guarded. They have to be in some regard, but. You know, and I heard Larry King, I think he wants to say something about like, give me a subject matter. Who's who can be self-deprecating, who can be honest and wise, who has opinions on things, and that's gonna be a great interview. And I can't tell you how many kids were like that a lot more than you would think. You know, a lot of kids don't use the cliche answers. They give real honest answers, and I've always just found that fascinating.

Luke:

And John, you two have worked with professional sports in division one sports. Let's talk from a coaching perspective. Do you see a difference in the youth coach to high school coach to D one big time coach to the NFL coach, whoever may be, is there a difference or are there some common character traits or fundamental truths of all those coaches?

Jon:

Well, the paycheck is different, right, Luke. So that would be a start, right? I mean certainly, as you, advance further in your coaching career, although certainly now the amount of money being thrown around in, in college coaching is obscene, right. Which is, has exceeded I think, the NFL in a lot of ways. I think if you look at some of these studies, some of the great coaches that currently are in the professional or the college level, I like to look at guys that had experience in high school, and many of them will, cite that when they're interviewed about what were their greatest influences? Right? As a young coach, am I talking about schematically? I'm talking about just, just dealing with athletes and again, the human interaction. So I would think it would be the hardest. And I, and I saw this when I was, as someone who covered the Chicago Bears as somebody who covered a division one program is balancing that. Because winning matters, right. I think it matters at the high school level and the youth level. And we can have a conversation about that Luke and Joe, about, I think we diminish the importance of winning, I think too much, even at the youth level. I think it's perfectly fine to elevate the importance of that within the right context. But back to your question about coaches and sort of similarities, I think it's, it's being able to balance the importance and the need to win. With also understand that you're dealing with individuals and with people and try and get the most out of those people. Right. So, so, and how do you motivate those, those individuals? Right? Who at the professional level are making more money than you and maybe are mercenaries? They don't really care about the crest on the front. They care about what's in it for the name on the. So, how do you motivate that person to win and then to also represent your franchise as opposed to a high school coach where you might try to motivate as a 16, 17 year old, who doesn't have a lot of confidence who's who's wearing that uniform because they care about being a Shamrock right there. They're at St. Pat's right loop because they love the school. But maybe just don't have the experience or the confidence to know what that means. So that's your job, right? As a high school coach to motivate that kid and to get them to, to understand that, but the end of the day winning matters too. So I think it's, it's a balancing between winning games, humanity, competition, all those, all those, and that, the best ones, right? The hall of fame coaches, the Nick Saban's of the world at the college level bill Bellacheck. If you read about bill Bellacheck, his players. The media may not like him at all, but his players love the guy. So why is that? Well, because I think he cares about them. And so he, so he's able to balance that winning aspect of it while also that sense of heart and, understanding that, Hey, I do care about you as a person while we're also winning games.

Luke:

Yeah. And Nick Saban does not get nearly the credit he deserves for what he does for his players off the field. Does he have a high standard? Does he demand perfection? Do you see his rant for lack of a better term on the sideline when they don't do that? Well, yes. And that's what the media tends to fixate on. But to your point, they don't understand the humanity of Nick Saban and what he truly does for not only his players. Really the community at large and what a good person he is in general to the whole Alabama community. But, transitioning back to high school sports to you, Joe, how have you seen the coverage of prep sports change throughout your years as a member of the media?

Joe:

Well, I mean, I've been doing it for 30 years and it's been a roller coaster. I mean, when I first started with pioneer press newspapers, actually the Waukegan News Sun there were few reporters and then there got more and more, that became more and more. And then with social media and the internet also, you had a lot people in a lot of people covering games, from, online publications that I had never even heard of, but they were there, they were covering prep sports, and then prompt 2007 with the, you know, the economy tanked, it, killed the newspaper in history. And, uh, then you saw fewer and fewer reporters. So it's just been a big roller coaster. And now, you know, when I left the daily Herald a little more than a year ago, we were, I mean, the pandemic certainly affected everything, especially with newspapers, but. And then it really dropped off. You know, the daily Herald is not the newspaper that I was associate, it's not the paper that I was associated with for 20 years. It's just dropped off dramatically. We zoned a lot more meaning we had issues in lake county, cook county, DuPage county, et cetera. Now it's just kind of watered down and I knew that was coming. Um, that's part of the reason why I didn't want to be a part of it any longer, because I didn't want to have to go. Um, school, the school field, the field gym, the gym, explaining to people why we're not doing what we used to because a one newspapers when their heyday, you know, we used to, we, the, the daily Herald used to publish like eight page sports extras every Friday, including underclass sports. But it's changed the. The good news is with so much online now and websites, there's the opportunity. If you can find it online, but it's just not the same, but there are people who are doing really good work and I've told them this. So it's not just like a shameless plug while we're doing this, this podcast here, my buddy here, John Kerr. Is really good at what he's doing. You can disagree with them. John gets it, you know, you could hate him. Go ahead. But John has got an opinion. He's well-read he does his homework. And he is figuring out his audience. He's really good at figuring out his audience and not trying to be all over the map with everything. And he gets it. Like for future journalists, want to do this for a living, whether you want to go into TV, your radio or, or print or just be, you know, be a podcast or do work online. There's always going to be a need for, for good reporting. Whether it's 10 guys doing it, or two guys doing it, there are stories to be told. There's so many stories like no last year I'm thinking, you know, I'd see something online or hear something, a text message like, oh man, someone's got to tell that story. And if I were with the daily Herald, I'd be telling that story. And I stopped being told there's so many stories that are not being told. That hurts. Cause I, you know, it was just as a reader, as a fan. I want to hear those stories, uh, as a person, I want to hear those stories. So there's still good guys out there doing it. Michael Bryan, Johnny, um, you know, some of my old colleagues still at the daily Herald, but it's just not the same anymore. And it makes me sad because I am a newspaper guy. This is what I've done with. Professional career essentially. And I root for newspapers. I root for guys like John and other reporters, because I think there are stories out there and they just have to be, they have to be told and told correctly.

Luke:

And I love reading and hearing the stories as well. And speaking of stories, a lot happens on a sideline that a lot of people are probably not aware of. So John transitioning to you talk a little bit about the sideline dynamics at a game, it could be high school, college, whatever, doesn't matter cause I think it's probably similar. Talk about the sideline dynamics between fans, officials, coaches that you've witnessed.

Jon:

Yeah. before I answer that, I want to thank Joe for the kind words. I think he's just buttering me up to get them a free round at bridges, Poplar Creek or something, you know, next spring, when we can actually play golf, uh, when all the snow melt, which is not a bad thing, I'm looking forward to that round for sure. Um, you know, I think, I think there are two people in this world, really, Luke, from a reporter perspective and Joe and I are on the same side. You are a sideline guy or you are pressed by. Okay. So I think you can tell a lot about individuals and when, when you get back on the sideline, this fall with St Patrick's and, and you see a reporter, you don't recognize Luke ask that guy, where did you watch the game? Were you on the sideline or were you in the press box? And then that will determine a lot about how you valuate that person and, how they write your story. Joe and I are silent. So we, as we always happen, I always have been, I covered a high school football game, this last falls lake forest in Antioch, in the playoffs, it rained the entire game. And I had, I had my clipboard and I I'm old fashioned got the, got the paper, the notes I'm going. I can't write anything down here. And people are asking me like, why don't you go the press, but I'm not going up. I'm not good with that. I know it's dry up there and it makes practical sense for me to cope with the press box. I feel like it's a mentality thing that I would miss something. Right. But back to your question, I think if you are in the storytelling business, which Joe is was, is and which I am, you can't do that bye sitting in the press box, you know with an aerial view it's, well, there there's surely some advantages to being in that environment cause it's a sterile environment. But I think from, from a perspective of being a storyteller, being able to hear smell, see the events that are taking place in front of you will, it will inform and frame, what you're writing about. And at the end of the day, you're about servicing your audience. That's what you're about as a, as reporters, what's the best way for you to do that, to be upfront and take in all the different sights and sounds so that's what I think the vantage point is you hear coaches, your coach is talking to players. You hear parents yelling at officials, right? You hear cheerleaders. That's what you hear. You might meet somebody or find somebody in the sign you haven't seen for a long time. Any chance to talk to that person. You talked to the athletic director of the superintendent. What's going on with the school. You might get some injury and. About, you might know the trainer, right? Hey Bob, by the way, we know so-and-so got banged up on that first half. What's his or her status. So what you get is information that's the vantage point. And from reporter's perspective, that's all the matters.

Luke:

So given the fact that you guys have both gotten to experience throughout your career, being on the sideline, it's a very powerful place, firsthand witness to all the good and the bad of the coaching world. Let's focus on the good. So Joe, starting with you, what are some common character traits that you have seen from some of the best coaches?

Joe:

You know, I, I would say I love the teaching moments in game. You know, it's really raw on the sidelines. Some coaches use a lot of foul language, some don't. But, you know, I can remember just like the last year, uh, the prize, the last year I covered high school football before the pandemics would have been what 19. Warren had that great team, you know, they were going to stay in this. They were playing a semi-final game. They were up big at halftime. I can't remember who they were playing. May have been Brother Rice and the offensive line code for Warren, you know, Warren has like, you know, they've got the little tent up with the big video monitor and stuff. It's like a bigger, bigger screen than I have in my own house. Um, and they're, they're watching Dahlia play the last series and the O-line coach is just ripping into his old line and they're up like twins. I mean, they were up, they were dominating, but it was just like that never satisfied. but it was just Def fun. Good. Teaching moment and how all those kids were locked in. So I always like to see, like, even during a basketball game, like who's listening to the coach, that kind of thing during, uh, a timeout in the huddle. Maybe the kid never, never replaced. He's got the sweatpants on the whole game, but I like to see who's listening. And I, and I like just to see the passion of the coaches who are so involved and not necessarily always being positive, but some guys just would, would entertain me. Uh, Chuck Ramsey, John, you remember Chuck Ramsey at Warren, uh, chocolate stoppers for Todd Grun, lo at Grayslake, north, another guy, a stomp his foot guy. Some guys would throw the headsets on the football sideline. You know, I, I just like to see that raw emotion. It's it got if it's, if it's raw like that, you know, You know, as long as it's nothing personal with the individual. That's part of athletics. I don't know how you can not be emotional when you coach especially a sport like football. So I just like Luke, those teaching in game moments and you know, I, I missed that really.

Luke:

So some character traits I pull out of that story that you just told, Joe, his passion be a teacher. Demand excellence, never settle for anything less than your best. Those are some common character traits that came out within your answer. And John, same question to you now, what are, some of those common character traits that you have seen that the best coaches possess.

Jon:

I think the ability to be able to coach the game in front of them, but then also to be able to connect with their players. At the same time. Because again, you're Luke, you're obviously a professional educator and coach, so you can answer this better than than anybody, but you have to manage the game as a head coach, right? So you have to oversee often defense, special teams, personnel groupings. You have to make decisions about as you and I talked about offline about when to go forward on fourth, down when to punt, um you have to communicate with your trainer. About health situations. What about the kicker? What's his range potentially if we have to kick a field goal. So to be able to be able to balance all of that, and then you have a game plan and a script. Going into that game and guess what happens? It gets completely flipped, right? Because the other team fumbles on the first possession, or they return the kickoff back for, you know, 95 yards or your quarterback is knocked out of the game early on. Now you get the backup guy coming up, what comes to mind for me? And again, to go back to Stevenson again, for, some reason is Jack Sorensen, who is just graduated from Miami, all. What's a quarterback at Stevenson. I think in the 2000, the year after they won the state championship, it would have been 20. I think Joe, I think 2015, I think it was. And, joe and I have had Jack on our podcast and Jack was a wide receiver on the state championship team then became a quarterback in 2015. And there was a backup quarterback on that team. You might remember his name. Aiden O'Connell. So I remember. Jack getting hurt. He got knocked out with a head injury. The first game of the year against Palatine. And they put this young, I think, I think Aiden was a junior at the time, had skinny, like it probably as tall as he is now. But imagine you're like 160 pounds. I mean, he's a skinny kid to begin with about 160 pounds. And I remember standing there on the side. And then people are going like, oh my God, Jack Sorenson liked them. The parents were coming. We're hearing parents going, like, what do we do without Jack? I mean like, oh, you mean you plan the entire season two, this guy was going to be your quarterback and then he's out of the game. So as a coach, Luke, right. Well guess what that's like. This is the resiliency and the grit that we talked about. Right. So how are you going to handle the, if we can't control the adversity happening to us, how do we respond to it? And I remember just Aiden walking up to coach Mac and max is looking at him going, okay, here's the play? Go run it. There wasn't any big. About like this wasn't, I mean, as much on low Friday night lights like you coaches have all these moments all time. You're thinking about the big picture all the time. If you don't make this play, we're not going to win the state championship. Like you've never said that to a player before Luke. Right? It's about let's go on execute this play and then we'll go to the next one. I remember just how calm McNamara was in that particular moment when the season was on the balance, right? So I, I just think that was an example for me of that calmness, that sense of just, Hey, let's take it one play at a time. I think the best coaches. R that I have seen. And you're one of those two at Luke and we, you and I could have a separate podcast about how you handle that situation at lake Zurich. When you got there in 2017 about saying, we're going to own who we are. And I am going to take the guys in this room and we're going to go to practice. And then on Friday night, we're going to take it series by series. And we're not going to think about the playoffs. We're not going to think about the game in a month. We're going to think about this series, what we have to do to execute and get better and, and to get your players to play for you. But also I think as a coach to get sometimes outside of maybe what you're calling as a play caller. So. Balancing between me calling the offensive plays and when things don't go well or certain situation realize that I have to manage the entire team. So I got in my head here a little bit and think about the rest of my guys. So those to me are the best coaches.

Luke:

well said, John, I appreciate that. And I know you guys are both really good storytellers and it's up to you. Who wants to go first, but I would love you guys to share a story that you have covered that truly displays the powerful impact a coach can have on an athlete.

Joe:

I'll go, John. Um, well, look, I'll, I'll mention you actually. Cause I thought about this when you were talking like before about memorable stories. But, uh, I wish I could remember these two kids' names, but this was probably I'm guessing, I don't know, six, seven years ago you were at lakes. Game finishes. I can't remember who you played. I think you won the game. And I'm looking, you know, I'm going to talk to you and then maybe talk to one or two other kids and you come over, you've got your hands on the shoulders of two young men. I didn't know who they were. I think one kid was a big kid on offensive line, I think was a starter for you. And the other kid was like kind of short, like me and looked like he was like a special teams kid and all that. Didn't. Because you proceeded, uh, and in your emotional, I could see the emotion in your eyes. It was a somber moment and I'm thinking, why is he bringing these two guys over? Who I don't know. And then I don't even think they were impactful in the game. They may have been about, I can't remember, but it was their story about how they rallied behind a classmate who had died that week. I think, I think the young man had been ill and then finally, um, succumbed. You remember this? I can't remember the young guy's names. I can't remember the student's name down on the heat and it wasn't even a player for you. But I remember that. And Luke, that was you because they get ahead of the game was great. We won. Yay. Let's celebrate. And everyone's high-fiving and hugging. And that's wonderful, but the real story of that night where these kids and what had just happened that weekend, that we can school and it was beautiful. It was sad, but it was beautiful. And that's you caring enough to bring these two guys over cause I think you knew I would write about it. And again, that story needed to be told it was a good store. I don't care if you like, you're a high school football fan or not, you're a person. Um, if you can't relate to that story, you're not human. And I, I was honored and privileged that I got to tell that story and I hope, you know, I don't remember. I don't remember what I wrote, how I wrote it, the lead, but. Yeah, I hope I represented those kids, that young man who had passed accurately, but that's just like, that's the stuff I remember. I remember that more than covering a bears game and the bears won and everyone was excited and you know, you get to talk to pro football players. I remember more stuff like that stuff. You remember, those kids look, I'm sure you do.

Luke:

Yeah. So, it was actually one of my students in class. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was. Heartbreaking story. And he was going through this alone. I mean, obviously he had his family, but I mean, like within the halls of the school, even when he came to me and told me of his diagnosis and then ask, can you send home any homework? I want to keep up with my studies. And I was like, wait, hold on a minute. Like just, just pump the brakes. Explain to me what's going on. And I just talked to my team. I said, is anyone friends with him? And no one was, and all of the kids just kind of rallied and said, let's, let's befriend him. And without getting too deep into the hole, that is the powerful moment for me as a coach too. And I appreciate you bringing up that memory. Like that's the stuff that many people who get on social media and want to write. Athletes and coaches for losing a game. They miss that perspective, the humanity piece that John talked about. So, With that, pass it on to you John, that's a, tough act to follow, but, would you like to share, uh, share a story of a similar impact?

Jon:

Yeah, no, that was a great story. And thanks for sharing that anecdote. I'll see if I can pull that piece off the, uh, you know, off the files. This is Joe, you gotta, you gotta get a website, so you can, you can publish some of your archives. We can read some of these great stories of yours.

Joe:

Just a footnote to that. we, we have stories like that and those are the kinds of things that have to be told, whether it's by me or you or some other reporter. And that's why you have to go to games. And that's why you have to listen and observe and just let people talk. You don't have to ask the perfect question, just let people talk and they will talk. And. Look, what quickly do you remember those kids' names? The two athletes you brought over and what was a bit I remember on offensive line. We were like, what kid is tall? The other kid is short.

Luke:

Well, I know the lineman for sure. Collin orchard was his name. And I don't remember maybe Colton Jewel. I'm not, totally sure because to be honest with you, my entire team rallied around this entire family and I remember going to his house and we walk in and the parents had lakes, football stuff hanging up everywhere. My players took it upon themselves to sign this massive banner. I walked in and just to hear the mom and dad who were never even fans of football whatsoever. To be so thankful and the way the kids organically became friends with this sick classmate was awesome. So, I apologize I'm drawing a blank on other name. I'm trying not to get too emotional than the moment, uh, because you brought up a, tough time.

Joe:

Sorry for interrupting you.

Jon:

No. Oh, no, no, just I honestly, now you've got my curiosity. So you've got to find that story. You gotta find a way to dig that up somewhere on the archives and shared that. Yeah. I know we're running out of time here, so I'll, get through this, but one comes to mind pretty clearly for me. in 2010, I was researching, a book that I published called the boys and brown, where I spent a season with a caramel Catholic football team and their coach was, uh, the legendary, Andy. And during that fall, I'm a former player at Carmel who was at Notre Dame, named Declan Sullivan died unexpectedly in a, uh, he was a photographer for the Notre Dame football team. And he was on a, on a high rise and a gust of wind blew it down and he died due the impact of, of the fall Decklin was a caramel graduate and a former football player and had just recently graduated and was on. And, um, I remember, I remember Andy telling me he wasn't sure what he was going to say to his team that day. How do you, plan for something like. And he, and his, his message to the team I think, was, was as, as you would expect, which is, Yeah. th this is unfortunate. We will, more than Declan. But deck when w would wants to play football and to move on. But I remember also because this was caramel Catholic, and, and they do have chapel that there was there, there was a mumble. That day. And they pulled the kids from class to go to this Memorial and they were freely allowed to speak about their reactions to what just happened. I remember Michael Fitsgibbons, who's also a longtime caramel coach, who was an assistant coach at the time and he got up and he said, look, God had nothing to do with us. So stop hating God, stop wondering why this happened. Don't don't feel guilty about why this didn't happen to you versus somebody else. A gust of wind blew. And Declan died. That's what happened. And sometimes those things happen. And I just remember the, the unburdening of that room when he said. Because you're dealing with 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 year olds, right. Who are, who are jumbled. Some of them didn't even know Declan. Right. A lot of them didn't. But still when something, your peer, when somebody like that happens, it just, I mean that the fragility of life. And you blame yourself, you blame God, whatever the reasons are. And that moment he said, take that burden off yourself. All right. And let's focus on mourning him and remembering him, but also getting on with our lives and beginning that process. So, Luke, it almost goes back to kind of what I, the act, what I shared with you about coach McNamara at Stevenson in 2013. The ability to, to mourn what just happened, but also doing it in real time and, and moving on. And that to me is, is leadership in its, in its highest form because they it's that sense of humanity and gratitude that they're able, they're able to share. Uh, especially when you're dealing with young people where the smallest thing can be very seismic. In their lives, even the smallest thing can be, uh, but something of that magnitude can certainly turn into something greater. So, but that's what, that's what comes to mind. I got, I I've got stories for days about that particular season, which in my book, boys and brown, which you can find on Amazon by the way, boys and brown, amazon.com, quick little shameless plug there.

Luke:

Yeah, two very powerful, emotionally moving stories. And I'm going to hang up this podcast. Probably cry, then go hug my kids and probably go to church as well. Because, uh, again, I love athletics. I love everything it brings to the table. But part of my motivation with starting this podcast is we have to keep the humanity of it all. Like to John's point. Yes, let's win. Let's put the best product we can out there. And let's. The game, but please let's not lose sight of the fact. And I don't care if it is the NFL, it's a game. That's, that's what it is. And when it's over, it's over. And we all go back to being who we really are, which is people. And I had a previous guest on my podcast. Who's the team chaplain for new Orleans saints. And I asked him, what's the one thing that NFL fans do not know about players, that they'd be surprised to. And he said that there people that as soon as that game is over, they go and hug their kids and they become a dad. And that's what's most important in that moment. So why these fans are about the jump off the ledge because they lost the big game. The guys who've invested the time and literally the blood, sweat, and tears to play. They're moving on because you have to be a human being first. And I think both of your stories really display that part of sports. And hopefully we could not lose sight of that because that is what's, what's really important. So thank you both for sharing those stories. I know you guys have a podcast as well. One that I've, I've been on before and had a lot of fun being on it. So, Joe, you want to talk a little bit about your podcast? The Jon and Joe Show

Joe:

yeah. Well, thanks, Luke and great points. I agree. A hundred percent with what you're saying and I, and we could talk for three more hours. I know. But I do want to add, you know, I wonder sometimes if the player and you've had them, you know that, like I have to understand that I know you're the star. I know you want to win. I know you're competitive. But you got to let it go too. And it's okay to let that go. Right. Get back to being a good student, a good son, a good brother. Because some kids really think I have to be superstar, Joey, you know? No, you don't have to be, but that's probably a subject that again, we can go on and on. Um, thanks for mentioning the podcast. John's really the brains behind the podcast. John runs the whole thing. Um, we, we have a great time. We've been doing our John what four years now I told John this we've talked many times, you know, just, you know, on the phone, not doing the podcast. Like I enjoy doing it because I'm always learning from guys like Luke Mertens and athletes we cover and coaches from different sports. I'm always learning from these people and the more right, you never want to be the smartest guy in the room. Every time we do the podcast, I never feel like I'm the smartest guy doing the podcast. John is really intelligent and respect his opinions. We can disagree, um, on things. Um, but I think. Coming from the same place. And we, we love having our guests on, but the podcast we've got to got away from a little bit, but, uh, we want to keep doing it. We keep having fun doing it. And as long as John and I want to keep doing it, John and I want to keep doing, we'll keep doing it.

Luke:

Yeah. And that podcast is called the John and Joe show. And I will link that in our show notes for listeners as well. And John, you wanted to interject something.

Jon:

It's it's, it's different Lou now because Joe and I are no longer really full-time. Daily sports writers anymore, you know, that's just because of how things have shifted in our lives, but also just career changes and what we've alluded to a little bit on this show, how there just isn't a whole lot of guys like Joe and I around anymore. Really? Who covered? Perhaps sports like mean Joe did a longer than I did, uh, every single day. So, so getting into a rhythm of the show has been a little bit of a challenge, or this is last year or so because I'm doing some different things and Joe's doing some different things. So, but we'll get back to, and I think it's, that's why it's great to be on your show because he made us realize how much we kind of miss just talking to each other and have him guests on and, and how much fun this is. And, um, and just an honor, again, to be in a show. And I'm a fan of, again, people need to go back and listen to the show you did with. The new Orleans saints, a tremendous show. I mean, I've, I've really listened to that numerous times, uh, during workouts and, and whatnot, Luke, and you're doing a tremendous service you're I know you've got, uh, a, a new day job and a gig at St Patrick's, but please continue to find time to do this. It is definitely needed and necessary.

Luke:

Well, I appreciate that. And to Joe's point, selfishly, I learned from everybody that I have on too. So I'm going to keep this going because I want to keep learning. And I really enjoy connecting with people, literally all over the country and walk away from these recordings and saying, I am now a better person for having talked with that guy. So thank you for donating your time to, to be on the show today. And again, I'll link both of your podcasts and also John, your Kerr report as well, and to all of our listeners, you'll be able to read the Biles of both John and Joe as well and connect with them on, on social media and email if you'd like to talk with them more. thank you guys, both for being on and, uh, hope we connect again soon and.

Joe:

Thanks Luke loved it.

Jon:

Luke has been a pleasure. Take care.

Jon Kerr Profile Photo

Jon Kerr

Founder/Publisher

Chicago-based sports writer for Pioneer Press, Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.

Co-host of "Jon and Joe Show" podcast.

Joe Aguilar Profile Photo

Joe Aguilar

Shaw Media copy editor/page designer

Shaw Media copy editor/page designer; Jon & Joe podcast; ABC7-TV & Ultimate Autographs on-camera contributor ... Joe has been covering professional and prep sports in Chicago and its suburbs for more than 30 years. He spent 20 years as the Daily Herald's Lake County sports editor.