I first met Earl Edmonds at the Healthy Kids Triathlon Race of the Countryside YMCA (a public relations client of mine) and there was something about him that just stood out to me. I could tell he really enjoyed being among the young athletes. Later I got to talking with him and realized there was a lot more to discover in his life’s work.
Earl’s long career included being a teacher and high school basketball coach at his alma mater, Green Hills High School (his first head coaching job), at Tallawanda High School, and at Forest Park High School before becoming a principal first at Princeton High School followed Milford Main Middle School. He went on to be an administrator at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy before retiring in 2004 (although he still teaches Sunday school at his church). It has been a distinguished path that has earned him and his teams’ numerous accolades.
I wanted to know, where his inspiration came from. Let’s get to know more about Earl, one of Greater Cincinnati’s Hall of Fame basketball coaches.
Lisa: Who was someone who influenced the direction in your life?
Earl: “I was raised by my grandmother and grandfather who are both angels. We didn’t have a lot but what an education I got. I look back and give my grandmother so much credit for pointing me in the right direction. She taught me so much about how to treat people. I had a wonderful father who lived with us too, he just couldn’t take care of us on his own.
Lisa: Why did you become a teacher and a coach?
Earl: “The people I admired most in life were my coaches and so I always wanted to be a coach. I had a terrific English teacher who inspired me so I became a teacher. The people you admire in your life impact you. I also was always an athlete. I played football, baseball and basketball but loved basketball most. I loved teaching novels and grammar, but I also just love being around kids.
Lisa: What do you think it takes to be a good teacher and coach?
Earl: “I see coaching as teaching and teaching as coaching. To be a good coach, you need to break down the sport and teach the skills. You need to understand how to teach young people to achieve. In a classroom, I always felt like I had to coach and encourage kids.
As a coach and teacher, it is important to be positive, be truthful and honest with kids, get along with them but also you have to be in a position to make some tough decisions. You need to be able to relate to everyone, and create a genuine family feeling which involves loving one another like a family. It is the same with being the principal. Both students and staff have to feel that. Sometimes that human connection gets lost with all the paperwork but the most successful people make that a priority. You need to Instill respect for each other – similar on the basketball court and in a classroom. I am a believer in Johnny Wooden, who went on to win 10 championships at UCLA. I have read every one of his books.
Lisa: Of what are you most proud when looking back at your career?
Earl: “I had an opportunity to coach and teach both of my sons, which is a unique experience for a father to have and it was very rewarding personally. I loved being in that role as I got to know them in a way that I think many fathers don’t get to know their sons. I treasure that. My oldest boy is now the head basketball coach at Wyoming High School, and my younger boy just completed his 10th Louisville Ironman. I saw that toughness in him from being his coach.
When I was principal at Milford Main Middle School, the school was named to the Ohio Hall of Fame and that for me was like winning a state championship in basketball. I was there for five years.
Last April, I was named to the Greater Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame which was a huge honor. I got there from coaching some really great players and having a 70% winning career.
Lisa: Was there any advice you have received that you pass along to others?
Earl: “I remember hearing Lou Holtz speak once and he mentioned three rules to follow in life: Do the right thing. Do your best. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Those three rules made a big impression on me and I try to bring that into my Sunday school class where I still teach, and in life.”
Beyond an orientation meeting to introduce me to the Countryside YMCA, I was getting ready for our first official public relations planning meeting. I chose a sleeveless fuchsia colored shirt with white pants because that color combination just makes me smile. When I arrived, and walked through her office door, would you believe, there, standing in front of me was Lori Cook, marketing specialist, wearing – yep, a sleeveless fuchsia colored shirt and white pants!
I don’t think either one of us will forget that moment. We burst out in laughter. It is color choice that is most people’s closets, even more so when the fuchsia top is sleeveless! It was pretty telling of future relationship. There are a lot of smiles and laughter when we work together.
Lori just brings that out in people. You tend to just feel happier, energized, when she is around.
Last month I was at the Countryside YMCA for its annual Healthy Kids Triathlon. Hundreds of children dove in the swimming pool before hopping on their bikes and then ending on foot, triumphing in front of cheering adults along the way. In the excitement of it all, I discovered as I was getting ready to leave that I had somehow lost my car keys. This, at the country’s largest YMCA which sprawls vast grounds. I was beside myself and Lori calmly told me she would not leave until I found them. I did end up finding the keys after about a half hour and all was good but I was so touched and so appreciative of her kindness and her patience.
And recently, when she and I connected personally on Facebook, I got to see another side to her. Her humorous spin on what would otherwise be considered every day family occurrences sends me into a chuckle.
It should come as no surprise then, when I asked her recently where her inspiration comes from, and she pointed to her two sons.
“I think it is really cool the way they think and want to care for others,” she told me, sharing these stories:
“My youngest, Benjamin, who is 14, is like the baby whisperer. He works at a nursery at our church and holds crying babies with such patience. Last Sunday my 3-year-old great niece was having a rough weekend and Benjamin dropped everything in his day to take her to the zoo, putting her in front of his own social and academic life. I want to be able to be like that as an adult. I want to be able to say this whatever is not as important as the people I care about.
My other son, Will, is 16 and is all about giving financially. He is the worker who quietly observes his world, and saves his income until something tugs at his heart. Then he gives his money. He was a lifeguard over the summer, picking up every shift he could. He is very structured with his budget so that he can have money to give back.”
I asked Lori what lessons her boys have taught her. Sher answered, “I have learned from them how to be playful, how to love with your heart first, how to be vulnerable, how to fail and be okay with that, and how hard it is to be peaceful. I see their stress from school and life, and I think it is something that needs to be talked about. Life is hard and needs to be addressed and simplified when can be.”