Like a lot of people, Kevin Lawrence is driven by success.
That’s one of the primary reasons why Lawrence entered the coaching profession.
He led the Susquehannock girls’ basketball program for four years from 2003-2007, and currently coaches the Red Lion varsity baseball team.
Success, however, can be interpreted in several ways.
For Lawrence, winning at the high school level, as important as it is in the small picture, isn’t of utmost consequence in the big picture. Lawrence fully believes that his role as a coach is measured by more than merely wins and losses. It’s about enriching the lives of the youngsters that he guides through the lens of athletic endeavors.
That, as Lawrence puts it, is focusing on the big picture.
Lawrence, who is a social studies teacher at Susquehannock as well as a high school basketball referee, is also acutely aware that there are many who are only looking at the here and now. For most of them, typically tunnel-vision parents, all that matters is either winning or making sure that their child gets enough playing time.
The dichotomy of those two differing views — teaching lasting life lessons and focusing only on the now — became crystal clear to Lawrence in a matter of hours a few months ago.
Pivotal day: While attending the wedding of one of his former AAU basketball players, Lawrence was made aware by the bride’s father that, besides her parents, that he was one the most influential persons in her life.
Only one word came to his mind when he heard that — "wow."
“That was an extraordinarily meaningful thing to be told,” Lawrence said. “Especially when you weren’t looking for it. That was a really powerful message for me.”
Later that night, a different message and tone was delivered via a post on Twitter. After leading the Lions to their most successful season in school history, including a first-ever District 3 Class 6-A title game appearance this year, Lawrence was a bit unnerved to find a negative opinion that he felt was directed at him as the coach.
“It’s hard to say it was at me, because it didn’t mention any names, but regardless to whom it was directed at, the thought that that I went home with was pretty simple,” he said. “On the evening that I was told by a now adult’s parents that I was one of the most influential people in her life, on the same evening at almost the exact time, to go on social media and find a message directed at me or someone else and disparage the efforts of coaches everywhere who are trying to make a positive difference in the lives of young people, just didn’t seem right.”
Stirred to action: Instead of getting angry, Lawrence decided that enough was enough. No longer would he be willing to just accept the narrative that views coaching success based on wins and/or playing time.
“When adults behave like children, the children never learn to behave like adults,” Lawrence said. “So good people don’t want to coach anymore.”
That thought spurred Lawrence to do something he rarely does — he made a post on social media. Along with the support of his wife, Heather, Lawrence took to Facebook seeking positive, life-changing stories from people about the coaches and teachers who had a significant impact in their lives for a book that he is hoping to have published in the near future.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “There are good people all around the country and I would really like to create a profile so that we can get the word out, because a lot of the behavior that we see around us today is just not OK. And there are people that, in spite of the type of nonsense, are still doing all of the right things, and there are people whose lives are enriched because of it.”
Lawrence created an email — email@example.com — for those interested in sharing their stories.
Strong response: So far, dozens of examples have come pouring in, but for Lawrence, enough is never enough.
“What we’d like to do is highlight all of the people that have done something good,” he said. “It could be anybody, but the group with which I’m most familiar is those who dedicate their lives to doing it in a full-time basis as a teacher or on a part-time basis as a coach.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.