When I was a senior football player at SMCC, we had a very good team. The coaching staff was comprised of several men who would become highly-respected coaches on the local football scene: Butch Weyer, Toby Notestine, and Gary Lill. In addition to these outstanding individuals, the staff included future Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame member Tony Legando, who would go on to a storied career at his alma mater, Huron High School.
As that senior year began, I was a non-letterman with decent hands and speed but of small stature. Most of my actual playing time through the first game had been limited to holding for extra points. Still, I worked hard, never backed down from mixing it up with any of my larger teammates, and continued to hope that I’d get my chance to prove I could play on Friday and Saturday nights.
That chance came after the first game when my defensive back coach managed to convince Coach Weyer to give me a shot. I started the next game on both sides of the ball, played on most special teams, and rarely left the field for the remainder of the season. That coach, who believed in me when no one else did, changed my life forever and for the good. It was Tony Legando.
I often credit Gary Kelley for being the man who inspired me to become a teacher. In a similar way, it was Coach Legando who showed me the difference a coach can make in a young person’s life and similarly motivated me to pursue a twenty-year coaching career. To this day, I consider him one of the most important role models and mentors I’ve been blessed to watch and learn under.
I have tried to incorporate Coach Legando’s leadership techniques into my own coaching, teaching, and even parenting, especially his cerebral approach to instruction. Even more so, from him I learned the value of storytelling in providing real world relevance to otherwise abstract concepts. Coach Legando can weave a story like few others I’ve known. I have had the pleasure of watching him speak to an auditorium full of easily-distracted teenagers and – without note cards or a fancy PowerPoint presentation – hold their rapt attention for over an hour. Trust me, this is no small feat.
Since Coach retired from coaching and teaching, in addition to his public speaking and writing a weekly column for the Sandusky Register, he recently published a book on leadership: To Lead a Good Life. It contains many of his seemingly-endless and always entertaining and insightful anecdotes. As the title aptly communicates, however, the book is much more than a leadership manual for teachers, coaches, parents, or managers. Through stories drawn from many of his own experiences, Coach Legando’s book reveals the necessity of toughness, hard work, resilience, fair play, teamwork, service, compassion, etc. necessary for anyone who aspires to live a meaningful existence worthy of imitation by others.
I will be forever indebted to Coach Legando for the lessons I learned from him first hand as will be the literally thousands of students and athletes who have had the privilege of being in his charge. Through the reading of To Lead a Good Life, that opportunity is now available to everyone. Regardless of one’s age, I promise you there is a story from Coach Legando’s vast store that will make your journey through life more purposeful and, perhaps even more importantly, of value to others.
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