When the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame held its annual scholarship awards banquet over the weekend, a good friend was missing. Longtime football coach and administrator Jack Bailey was not at the podium this year, reading the names of the teams, coaches and officials who have won league and district championships, or reached individual milestones this past season.
Instead, it was Coach Bailey's memory being honored; the long-time football coach and high school sports administrator passed away in December after a battle with cancer.
One of the 12 scholarships awarded on Sunday carries Bailey's name, a fitting honor for a man who spent decade after decade prowling local sidelines supporting, promoting and loving scholastic football.
From his work with the Central Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association, Lezzer Lumber All-Star Game and Golf Classic, National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, as well as local leagues and conferences, Bailey gave heart and soul to the mission of providing opportunities for young people to play the game he loved so much.
It's hard to calculate the number of lives Coach Bailey touched throughout his life and career. Of course he left a lasting impact with his family, friends, fellow coaches and colleagues, but his reach goes so much farther.
There were the hundreds of high school football players whom he coached and mentored during his seasons at West Branch and Philipsburg-Osceola. There were hundreds more athletes, boys and girls, whose sports he scheduled and attended while serving as athletic director for the Mounties. There were all-star football players, given one more chance to shine on the high school gridiron in the Lezzer Lumber All-Star Classic, and all of the young players who participated in camps and clinics organized by Coach Bailey over the years.
Those young people all reaped the benefits of participation in sport: learning values and virtues by which men like Coach Bailey lived every day. On the high school football field, those young men became members of a team, putting collective aspirations ahead of personal agendas. They developed goals and dreams, and a work ethic by which to pursue them. They learned about commitment, sacrifice, success and failure, all of which have undoubtedly stayed with those student-athletes long after they have left the classroom and hung up their cleats.
Over the next few months, youth football players will convene for clinics, dreaming of the day they can slip a varsity jersey over their heads. Teenagers will take the field for the local all-star game to round out their high school football careers with one last night under the Central Pennsylvania lights. Shortly thereafter, a new class will hit the gridiron for summer two-a-days: pre-season practice leading up to the return of high school football Friday nights. And somewhere, Coach Bailey will be smiling.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.