As our Inaugural Cheers to PUBLic Service – Coaches Cycle comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to thank all 80 coaches that were nominated for these awards. Your stories are touching, encouraging, and honest representations of the heart and soul it takes to be a youth coach, and we are truly blessed to have so many legendary leaders coaching our kids throughout Hillsborough and Pasco County – Thank you for all that you do for our youth, and the community!
Although incredibly difficult, alongside our Pillar Partners, we have selected twenty stand-out coaches that will receive $1000 each as winners of our Cheers to PUBlic Service awards! CONGRATULATIONS, WINNERS!
In addition to $1,000 each, our partners at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invited all of our coaches along with their guests to enjoy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons game on December 30th, 2018 and Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon chose four winners to enjoy a Weekend Excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade! Huge thanks to all of our Pillar Partners who make this program possible: DeBartolo Family Foundation, The Junior League of Tampa, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon, and The Outback Bowl. We couldn’t do it without you!
It’s coaches like Jerry Marsh, and stories like this one, that make us so grateful for the opportunity to recognize and celebrate these pillars of our community through the Cheers to PUBlic Service program. Coach Marsh coaches for Special Olympics of Pasco County and shares this incredible story as the ‘why’ he loves coaching: “This past summer, I was able to work with both youth and adults through Special Olympics of Pasco as a Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) coach. One of the athletes I coach is intellectually disabled and blind and is also one of the best paddlers on our team. The fact that this athlete is blind does not stop him from being a fierce competitor. He shows no fear on the water and puts all of his trust in me as a coach, which is very humbling. I always have to be within earshot of this athlete and run the races he competes in with him. I have worked out verbal commands and paddling techniques with him during practices and we have gotten pretty good at operating in traffic among other SUP athletes when competing. It blows me away the bond we have developed through this experience. There has never been any coaching experience that has emphasized the deep and committed connection between a coach and an athlete like this one. I look forward to this upcoming summer season of SUP competition and hope to make it to the state competition with this amazing athlete.”
When asked what he planned to do with the $1,000, Coach Marsh told us he looks to ‘share the love’ in three very touching ways: (1) Some bean bag chairs for the students in his wife’s classroom. “Receiving this honor as a Cheers Coach was kept a secret from me and was a total surprise. I want to give back to the students in my wife’s 5th grade class at Longleaf Elementary School that helped me win.” (2) A bike for one of his students that is a Special Olympian. “I have a student that I have worked with for the past four years that has really come a long way with cycling. I have seen him go from beginning cycling with training wheels to flying at top speed on a 20” BMX bike. I want to get a 24” multispeed bike for this student to train and compete with for the upcoming Special Olympics season. It is my hope he will make it to the Special Olympics State Games for cycling in Orlando this year.” (3) A down payment for a used truck for his son. “Unfortunately, his vehicle of the past 3 years kicked the bucket and he is in desperate need of transportation to get him back and forth from home to USF in Tampa while he works on completing his degree in Broadcast Journalism. I spent many years coaching during my son’s athletic endeavors and it is my hope that he’ll be just as motivated to work hard at his future journalism career as he did while playing football.”
When it comes to Coach Joshua Saunders and the Robinson High School flag football team, every aspect of his championship program is a family affair. Joshua Saunders’ love for sports led him to take his first assistant coaching job at Armwood High School in 1999, and now, twenty years later, his passion, desire, and commitment to his team has built a legacy at Robinson High.