Retired Coaches Still Winning
Some retired coaches may feel a void when they are no longer active in the sports community, but one Oklahoma coach has changed the rules of the game.
Chuck Bowman, co-founder of the Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes and recently formed group, Retired Coaches Ministry, said some of his favorite moments in life were during his 31 years of coaching sports. But once a coach faces retirement, the sense of belonging and importance fades with the last buzzer of their coaching career. “They go home, they lose their identity, they lose their self-value, and suddenly, they find that they are no longer connected to anybody,” Bowman said.
The Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes began roughly 30 years ago with 14 coaches and has since grown to 45 men and women currently coaching across the state. Bowman said the organization was created to offer a sense of community and positive encouragement to coaches.
For retired coaches, the games on the field and the court may be over, but that doesn’t mean they have to sit on the sidelines. The Retired Coaches Ministry provides an outlet for them to serve as a support system for each other and to stay engaged with their community. They host guest speakers such as well-known OU and OSU coaches who share stories of their successes and their faith, and how they inspire their players in those aspects. The group held their first meeting at Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler on 33rd Street in Edmond, and now also holds meetings in Tulsa, Enid, Norman, and Ardmore
The games on the field may be over, but that doesn’t mean they have to sit on the sidelines.
Bowman explained that the group is much more than retired coaches simply meeting for a free lunch and listening to an inspiring message from a guest speaker. “It’s a sense of belonging to a family where every member is simply known as ‘coach,’” Bowman said. “When people call me coach, it’s positive, it’s appreciative, and it’s very valuable.”
Retired coach Jim Miller served as a football, basketball, and track coach for 16 years. Since his retirement, he said he longed for the relationships he used to have within the community. In joining the Retired Coaches Ministry group, he said the fellowship has filled a void and has given him a brotherhood again. “There are old-timers here who were coaches when I was going through high school, so you have a blend of coaches,” Miller said. “I look forward to the luncheon every month.”
Retired basketball and golf coach, Mike de la Garza, said his number one reason for attending each luncheon is the camaraderie. After enjoying a 42-year career, having coached at Edmond Memorial High School and later serving as Athletic Director for Edmond Public Schools until retirement, he still wished to feel like he belonged to something special. Through the Retired Coaches Ministry, coaches like de la Garza are able to relive cherished memories and find their value again through fellowship.
“When you’re young and working hard and coaching and winning games, you’re just trying to do your job, take care of your kids,” de la Garza said. “Now all that’s over, but you get to see another side of all those guys, and most importantly, they get to see another side of you.”
Retired Coaches Luncheon meets on the first Wednesday of each month for food and fellowship. For more information about the group, visit okfca.org/retired-coaches-luncheon to learn more.