The Farm Chronicles: Death of a coach

I just found out that my high school football and track coach passed away. Martin “Marty” Tausch was 86. He had a profound impact on my life and I’ve been debating how to depict it. I met Coach going into my sophomore year. There was a meeting called of all those who wanted to play football. We were gathered together in the gym in August. Coach made a grand entrance sporting a goatee. It wasn’t a friendly meeting. He kind of explained that he was the new football coach and that he had expectations. He said that the football coach should be viewed as a benevolent dictator—we do what we are told and he would do what was best for the team. Kind of scary. Not what many of us expected.

He gave us the schedule and right away I had a conflict because I was in Horse 4-H and had to take a week off at the end of the month for the Randolph Fair. That set our relationship on a path that never really changed. I think he saw that as choosing horses over football and that choice was a question of dedication. Over the next three years, I moved back and forth from starting to sitting and listening to crazy criticism that had very little to do with my football play, but a lot to do with personal sarcastic digs. I remember recovering a fumble one night and he pulled me aside and told me, “That was the only thing you did all game.” I think he believed in the old school of thought that negativity and conflict was motivational. On one hand it can motivate for a short time. On the other it discourages. And that eventually was reflected in my attitude.

Marty was also our track coach. If you were going to play football, you had better run track or play baseball in the spring. We never had a good track team until my class of freshmen came up. We were fast, athletic and tough. Coach took advantage of that to get us in shape and win track meets. And win we did. Changed the whole complexion of our league’s All-Sports Trophy. But we didn’t win championships in football, usually second or third. We didn’t lose because we were out of shape—he was great on conditioning. I believe we lost games because of the culture he established. In track, I was like his best buddy. In football, I was a pretty good scapegoat. Especially, when I had to take off to go to the fair each year. The horse thing finally got the best of Coach, though. His two daughters loved horses. And he loved his daughters.

He finally came to me and asked if they could come over and ride. He would even pay. Dad and I talked it over and they were welcome without any pay. I think that allowed Coach to see who we really were. I hope it did. Years later, we greeted each other fondly at a game. And I think of Coach Tausch a lot. My success as a coach was in part due to him. He really taught me what I didn’t want to do. But he also taught me mental toughness. He acquitted his life well. He won many track titles and as his obituary says, “coached some outstanding athletes.” He was involved with developing young men throughout his life. We all have our journey and Coach Tausch is part of mine. As in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” I’m sure he did all three in his own way. I respect him for it.

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Bill Wilson

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