Thanks, Coach.

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For several years, I occasionally saw an older gentleman subtly enter my place of employment and exit just as quietly, if not more so, than when I initially noticed his presence. From afar, he seemed humble, if not authoritative and this instantly caught my attention and respect. It was something you could feel and something that I felt was earned and well deserved. I never truly questioned who he was at first or why he was exactly there. As time had passed, I learned that this gentleman was the father of two of my co-workers. Due to one married name change and my lack of correlation, I never knew his true impact on others outside of the confines of my employment. This is exactly why I believe my aspect may shed a different light on a man and a father, that perhaps lacks the true headlines of accomplishment.

Less than a few years ago, I realized this man was a Toledo legend. He held the most coaching wins in the history of the men’s basketball program at the University of Toledo. His name graces the basketball court and his coaching stats are impeccable. The records, stories, and his ability to mentor kids and young people alike are all stories that appear to be endless. I can not even begin to touch upon this side of Coach Nichols’ life, nor should I. I met him briefly in a car ride to a University of Michigan football game. For some strange reason, I was nervous. Not because of his name, but because I could feel my admiration build for someone I knew deserved honor and courteous acknowledgement. I served in the military for several years and used the word “sir” on a daily basis. I can honestly say, I had not said it in a long time; until that car ride.

I can not truly speak for the people that really knew him. I know very little and I am not trying to represent otherwise. What I do know, is that my co-workers, his children (two of them) speak volumes for what kind of man he was. Very few people in this world can be legendary coaches, teachers, and mentors, let alone loving fathers. He was both. I know thoughtful, genuine human beings when I see them and I can only imagine the life lessons that were passed down to them from their father. This is just a small portion of Mr. Nichols that will live on forever, through them. I can’t fathom the impact his life has left on others and what it will leave on our futures. I’m just a small leaf on the end of the tree and I feel it. Every day, I see the impact that his children leave on those around us. Someday, somehow, I wish to be the man Mr. Nichols was. Not necessarily the coach, but the loving father and human that far surpasses any championships or trophies. Thank you for your strong impact on our community and even on those you may have never even known existed. May you rest in peace and live forever in the hearts of your loved ones.

Sincerely,
Eric Shanteau

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6 responses to “Thanks, Coach.

  1. Very well said Eric. Coach Nichols was someone I followed as a teenager and young man as I rooted on the Toledo Rockets Basketball Team season after season. I never knew Coach Nichols personally although just from watching him coach and listening to him during interviews you could tell he was a person and man who exemplified honor, dignity and respect for everyone and anyone who came into his life.

    I have quickly read a few of your other stories and find them interesting as I also grew up in Maumee, Ohio and still today call it home even though I have been gone since 1997. I also coached soccer for my sons team at Rolf Park and I believe there was an Eric Shanteau on the team for a couple of years. If you are that same young man then it is good to hear from you and I hope life is going well.

    Enjoy,
    Coach, John Mitchell

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting. He was a great man. That was me! I played soccer the majority of my life. Where did you move to? Did your son play for Anthony Wayne? Great to hear from you, coach!

      • Hello Eric,

        Yes my son John (Buddy) and two daughters, Leslie and Becky all did graduate from Anthony Wayne. John and Leslie both played varsity soccer for four years also.

        In 1997 I moved to the Dayton, Ohio suburbs where I worked until moving almost three years ago to the Columbus, Ohio area to take a new job.  It sounds like you have realized the simple beauty of the Maumee – Toledo area and all there is to explore and enhance your life.

        Email me if you would like at jecmitchell@yahoo.com or look me up on fb.

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