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Like in life, coaches rely on mentors and other resources

As a journalist, whenever I find myself in a jam and in need of advice I always turn to former colleagues, bosses, and professors.

There’s my former editor at the Verde Independent in Cottonwood, AZ, Dan Engler. He was the one who gave me my first full-time job as a journalist and someone who taught me so much about the business. In fact, before I took this job I reached out to him to talk about the opportunity, just to have a sounding board.

Then, there are my former professors at Arizona State University, Paola Boivin and Brett Kurland. Two of the best to ever do it. Dan gave me my first opportunity after graduating from Slippery Rock University with my Bachelor’s degree, but these two took my talents to a whole new level while I was pursuing my Master’s Degree. I leaned on them when weighing job options after graduation and still check in with them to this day to bend their ear about an idea I’m tinkering with.

I can’t forget about Bill Hartlep at the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh. After graduating from Slippery Rock a friend put me in touch with Bill to get me my first part-time job in journalism. I was answering phone calls, writing small game recaps and filling out box scores. It was a start, and everything has to begin somewhere. Then, when I moved back from Arizona, Bill was my first call. I worked under him for three years and he still answers my phone calls to this day whenever I’m in need.

Then there’s my current boss, Brenda Linert. I’ve been in this area for a year now, but I still always have questions and Brenda is the first one I normally turn to for answers. If she doesn’t have one, she points me in the right direction to get one.

See in the journalism world, these are my coaches and I’m just a branch on their coaching tree, of which they probably have many. We bounce ideas off each other and we figure things out and it works the same in all aspects of life, especially in football.

On Thursday, you saw three branches of the Jim Tressel coaching tree all come together at the United Way “Champions Among Us” event at the Lake Club.

Along with Tressel, current Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell and Youngstown State football coach Doug Phillips were all in attendance.

Fickell coached under Tressel at Ohio State and was named the interim head coach in 2011 before Urban Meyer took over the following year. To this day, Fickell still uses both Tressel and Phillips as resources, and having that resource for any job, whether it’s as a journalist or as a college football coach helps a lot.

“It’s just having that resource, someone to bounce ideas off of,” Phillips said. “When you work with someone you’re finding a guy that you can bounce ideas off of. You’re always looking to evolve as a person, evolve as a program. So having that sounding board sometimes is a good idea.”

Having people around you that will be honest with you is also a big benefit of a coaching tree like Tressel’s and that’s one of the things that Fickell misses most about not having a guy like Phillips around.

“There are those guys on your staff that can be honest with you and give you constructive criticism in those difficult times. Whether it’s when they are on your staff or from afar,” Fickell said. “Those relationships, I don’t think in this business, are as frequent. So when you have some of those things, you have to really value them and treasure that.”

As time goes on, coaching tree’s like Tressel’s grow and when you have a coach that just took his program to the College Football Playoff, they grow even bigger. Sooner rather than later both Fickell and Phillips will have more coaches and colleagues to bounce ideas off.

Just like them, I hope to build a coaching tree of my own one day because I know there are plenty of solid journalists that work for me right now.

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