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!
Coach Tom McHugh worked in private industry for seventeen years before deciding to return to college and become a teacher so he could also be a coach. Inspired by his former high school coach, Ray Buscemi, Tom wanted to have the opportunity to affect young people in the same positive way Coach Buscemi had done for him many years ago. Fast-forward to today, and Tom has coached many sports over the past thirty years – all of which have their share of unique and wonderful stories thanks to the relationships that are forged between players and coaches: “Every Father’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day and on my birthday, I get phone calls and text messages from former players wishing me the best and just to keep in touch. I reciprocate on their birthdays and holidays, the birth of a child and other life events. There have been many times when I have had the opportunity to coach the child of one of my former players which is a really unique experience. Hearing from former players whether they are playing in the NFL or working as teachers, first responders, electricians or any other occupation and knowing I played even a small part in helping them become who they are makes my decision to coach the best career choice I could have made.”
Although there are many, Coach McHugh shared one story involving a young man’s journey through high school and college (and life!) that helped define him as a coach: “I first met this young boy when he was an 8th grader at the school where my wife and daughter were his Social Studies and Language Arts teacher, respectfully. This young student was a middle school football player and at the time was having a difficult time in his classes. Since I coached football at the high school and my wife and daughter were his teachers, I was invited to a parent teacher conference to meet him. I will never forget our conversation. I asked him what he wanted to do in life. He responded, “I want to play in the NFL.” I asked him how he was going to get there. He answered,” Do good in school and go to college.” I asked him if I could help and he told me I could. For the next four years of this student’s life I watched as he moved from place to place much of the time he was veritably homeless. He carried his belongings from place to place in plastic bags never really staying in the same place for long never having a parental figure. He relied on our high school community for help when he needed it while never giving up on his dreams of finishing high school, going to college and playing football in the NFL. He played football for me his entire high school career, graduated from high school, got a scholarship to play football at a Big 10 university and now plays in the NFL. Our relationship continued throughout his college career. We talked at least once a week before and after his games and when he came home on breaks we visited. Our continuing relationship, even now that he is in the NFL, has helped define me as a coach, a teacher, a father, grandfather and as a man. This story is one memorable example of how a coach can effect the life of a player and visa versa.”
Just as Coach McHugh and this young man enjoy a special bond that has withstood the test of time, he recalls how it was the bond he had with his high school coach that truly set the stage for this amazing career: “Coach Buscemi had such an impact on my life and philosophy of coaching that on the night before our Pasco High football team was to play Wakulla in the State Semi-final game, I called him just to talk. Even though it had been 38 years since I graduated from high school, our conversation had such a calming effect that I will never forget the feeling of being back in high school before a game listening to Coach B. talk to the team.”
Thank you, Coach McHugh – For dedicating your life to having a positive affect on young people and being a force for good in so many people’s lives. We hope you and the McHugh clan have an incredible summer vacation!
Fatherhood may have inspired Coach Keven Barber to start coaching, but it was the love of the game that has fueled his passion for the last twelve years. Coach Barber always loved the game of football while growing up, and as a young man he admittedly made a few decisions where his coaches affected his life for the better – for which he will always be grateful. When he and his wife started have kids (four boys) he knew that he wanted to coach them, but in a way that would make it fun while teaching them discipline and academics. Many years later, he continues engaging with his kids and other youth through football (also youth baseball, tee ball, hiking and fishing), enjoying every moment he spends giving back to the great kids of Wesley Chapel.
In the case of Coach Stephen Jones, we can thank the actions of a sneaky 8-year-old and a compassionate father for one of Cobra Nation’s most extraordinary coaches. “When I was 8 years old, my father took me to the rec center to sign me up for recreational soccer. I secretly wrote his name down on the volunteer coaches form. After he received the ensuing phone call with his new team’s roster, he laughed and agreed to become my coach. My relationship with my father, built upon the foundation of many years in youth athletics, was my greatest inspiration to begin my own coaching career.”