I didn’t always want to become a teacher.
In college, I majored in political science and planned to go to law school, chase a high-paying job with a ton of prestige, and live a life focused on the next big thing. I grew up with parents who were, and still are, educators. For a fleeting moment, I wanted something drastically different from what I saw growing up.
However, as I started college I began to rethink what I value and where I find meaning. While I have always loved social science and sports… I loved people more.
I had a really difficult time in high school in one specific incident with a teacher. The teacher in question sort of “had it out” for me and for whatever reason, wanted to get me in trouble with the school.
But someone stood up for me: my football coach.
He saw something in me that not everyone else did, and he put himself on the line to prove it. The confidence he had in me stuck.
So when I was in the process of figuring out what I valued and how I wanted to invest my time as an adult, I reflected back on who shaped me the most: the teachers and coaches in my life. I wanted to find meaning, create a positive impact, and I knew I could do that through teaching and coaching.
After college, I earned my teaching credential and started teaching Social Science and coaching football and baseball.
Want to know who supported me again? My football coach, Jon Caffrey.
After coaching, he went on to become an Athletic Director at a high school in my area, so when it was time for me to take the next steps in my teaching and coaching career, he supported me again by connecting me to the right people.
Because of his support, I had the privilege of being the head coach of our school’s football team, where we went from a losing record to win the state championship. We’re a regular public school that leveraged our secret sauce to recruit and retain great players: we coached the neighborhood. We focused on building relationships with the families in our school’s area and re-shaped the narrative for the individual players and our school’s legacy. For the first time in decades, our players earned county awards and went on to play at the collegiate level.
While those accolades are exciting, what I’m most proud of is the relationships I built with my players and students.
In the same way Caffrey valued me and built confidence in me as a teenager, I’ve worked hard to develop meaningful relationships with my players. I have held kids while they cry because they lost a parent, been the one they call when they are kicked out of their house, and been counseled through endless emotional and mental health issues over the last 15 years. As a coach, you are also a second parent and counselor, 100% of the time.
As I leave my football coaching career to pursue administration, I am grateful to be a part of the lives of so many young men.
If you’re a teacher, coach, or a high school student in the thick of it, here is my best advice.
3 lessons for students, coaches, and teachers:
1. Relationships First
Whether we are talking about students, teachers, coaches, or anyone else on campus…always prioritize the personal connections you are making above all else. These connections are what keep you going on the hard days and these will have the greatest impact on others.
2. Work Really Hard:
It sounds simple, but going above and beyond not only gives you a great sense of personal satisfaction, but it also sends the message to students and everyone else that you care enough to put in the time. Plus, doing your very best is simply the right thing to do.
3. Impact is a Long Game:
Sometimes students, players, and parents recognize your value and impact on them right away and they express that appreciation. However, there will be countless people who will not recognize your impact until years down the road. Sometimes you’ll hear about it, most of the time you won't…keep in mind that we won’t always see the fruit of the seeds we plant.
We all know that kids face a mountain of issues every day. From the chaos of economic instability to the pressure to perform in academics and athletics, students walk into the classroom or onto the field carrying too much. They are over-scheduled and overworked, oftentimes without much time to rest or relax.
As a parent to three kids myself, it’s my hope that they have teachers and coaches who value who they are and inspire them to make a positive impact.
I know firsthand the impact of a positive male role model, both in my dad and Coach Caffrey. In my coaching and teaching career, I have been able to use the tools that I learned from these men to impact the next generation in a positive way. When I think back to my college self when I was deciding to chase money and prestige or pursue a life of value and meaning, I’m so glad I chose the latter.
Pete Karavedas is a state championship-winning football coach and County Coach of the Year at Sunny Hills High School. Prior to Coach Karavedas’ tenure, Sunny Hills had just three winning seasons in the previous 15 years. This past fall, the Lancers finished their sixth straight winning season with a 7-4 record and qualified for the CIF playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.