Kurt Warner thankful for influence of his first youth football coach
By Greg Bach
One of the greatest stories in the history of the NFL – Kurt Warner’s journey from stocking grocery store shelves for $5.50 an hour after being cut by the Green Bay Packers to later leading the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title – might not have ever happened without Larry Fields.
So, who the heck is Larry Fields?
He was Warner’s flag football coach when he showed up to play as a child at the Jane Boyd Community Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
He cared about kids.
He was passionate and positive.
He made practices fun.
And one of the game’s all-time great quarterbacks has never forgotten.
A couple weeks ago I had the chance to ask Warner, one of seven who will be inducted into the NFL’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, about his youth sports experiences.
And he couldn’t wait to share the impact Fields, and some of the other coaches he played for growing up, had on him.
“I played flag football until I was in the seventh grade and I had a coach there at the Jane Boyd Community Center named Larry Fields and he was passionate about the game,” Warner said. “He had a knowledge of the game, and he made it fun to compete and to show up and practice every day.”
Warner threw for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns during an extraordinary career. He was the NFL’s MVP in 1999 and the Super Bowl MVP that same season.
He was selected to four Pro Bowls and named first-team All-Pro twice.
And he still holds some Super Bowl passing records.
It’s not far-fetched to consider that none of that ever happens if his first experiences with the sport had been tarnished by coaches who failed to recognize what coaching kids is all about.
Warner knows how fortunate he was back then.
And he worries about all those who are driven away from sports because of volunteers who manage to zap the fun from playing.
“I think so much of where you go as an athlete is determined by the coaches you have and the people you are around and the way that they encourage you or discourage you in your particular sport,” he said. “I think that’s so key. I was very fortunate to have some great coaches, especially in the early stages of the process, that made it fun to go every day and they made it fun to be there. You were excited to show up and you were excited to compete.”
As a volunteer, regardless of the sport you’re coaching, keep Warner’s words front and center with you throughout the season.
Chances are you probably don’t have a future Hall of Famer in your midst, but you do have a group of kids who will remember you for the rest of their lives.
And when they reflect on their time with you wouldn’t it be great if it brought a huge smile to their face?
Cursing coaches using laps as punishment is not how it’s done anymore. Former standout collegiate athlete and ESPN broadcaster Brooke Weisbrod on igniting kids’ passions and impacting young lives in a positive manner
Former NFL tight end David Sloan remembers the words a youth football coach delivered to him and how it changed his approach to the game
Olympic triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen encourages young athletes to focus on doing their best – and to move on quickly from a disappointing performance
ESPN and SEC Network broadcaster Lauren Sisler’s journey through youth gymnastics to the collegiate ranks was packed with life lessons that have helped fuel a successful career in front of the camera