Valley football coach talks to Valley Kiwanis Club
VALLEY — In his 25 years of coaching high school football, Buster Daniel has been part of winning lots of games but what matters most to him goes beyond any one game or football season.
“It’s all about building relationships with young people,” he said. “I still run across people I coached 25 years ago. They hug me, tell me it’s good to see me and what it meant to them to be part of that team.”
Daniel, who’s entering his third year as head football coach at Valley High, was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Valley Kiwanis Club meeting.
“The relationships you build with young men are what matters to me,” he said. “If you treat them right they will bust their tails for you, and you will win some football games.”
Daniel values what he calls winning without winning. A coach’s team doesn’t have to win a state championship if the coaching staff has molded lives and produced young men who are productive citizens.
“They need football more than football needs them,” he said.
Daniel said that he has no illusions of ever being a hall of fame coach.
“I became a head coach too late in my career to do that,” he said. “What matters to me is being in the hall of fame of my kids’ hearts. You do that by building relationships with them, by knowing what’s going on in their lives when they are away from football. I was fortunate to have had a great mom and dad when I was growing up, but many kids today don’t have that. Sometimes little Johnny sleeps in class because of what’s going on at home. When coaches build relationships with their players, they can help win out in society with them.”
Keeping the players safe is the highest priority. “We make sure they don’t get too hot,” he said. “We will sometimes spray they them water to help keep them cool.”
High school coaches are careful to avoid possible head injuries to their players.
“We coach our running backs to hold their heads up when they are tackled, and we teach our defensive players to lead with their shoulders and never with their head,” Daniel said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of concussions in recent years. The helmets they make are so good now.”
Daniel feels good about this year’s team at Valley High.
“We are down in numbers this year. We have 45 players,” he said. “I can honestly say that in 25 years of coaching this was the first year I ever really enjoyed a spring practice. We have a tremendous group of young men this year. They come to work every day and do what they are asked to do. These kids made me enjoy our practices. They understand that I’m not leaving them, that I’m not going someplace else.”
Mike Power will be coaching the junior high teams this year. He succeeds Thomas Hill, who has moved on to a new position at Beulah High. Other than that, the staff is pretty much the same as last year.
Good, strong leadership, Daniel said, is what will drive this team this year.
“Our seniors are having a positive influence on their team mates,” he said. “They are setting good examples for others to follow.”
Valley opens at home with Lanett on Friday, Aug 23.
“It will be a big game,” Daniel said. “I know there will be a big crowd there, and the two teams will play hard.”
Director of Secondary Schools Dr. Sharon Weldon said she likes the way athletes are buying into the importance of doing well in the classroom.
“For the last three years ,our football players have been graduating on time,” she said. “We have had a 100 percent rate among them. I think it goes to that relationship building, that the coaches know what’s going on in their lives.”