Skip to Content

By: JD Sparks III, current MDS parent

JD Sparks III (#35)

Growing up in a military family, I can envision my grandfather talking to me about the war efforts during World War II, showing me a photo of “Rosie the Riveter,” and telling me about the war bonds campaign behind the iconic picture. As a nation we “stepped up” big time and got behind the purpose “We Can Do It,” and got it done. As a nation we won.

These were valuable life lessons about vision, character, culture (which trumps strategy), grit, teamwork, leadership, and influence—lessons that I also learned on the gridiron from my legendary high school football coach, Charlie Brown, for whom I played at Neville High School in Monroe, LA, from 1976 to 1979. Coach Brown was a man of vision, faith, and character. He demonstrated the value of hard work and was an insightful teacher and mentor to the many people with whom he crossed paths.

Life Lessons from a Coach

I doubt any of you knew Coach Brown, but chances are you have had someone like him at Mount de Sales or in your life. Someone that helped make you who you are, who challenged you to be better than you ever imagined. Like me, you are probably grateful to have had a coach who cared enough to push you, to dream big dreams, to encourage you, to make you the unique and remarkable person you are today.

Coach Charlie Brown

In thirty years as a head and assistant coach at Neville High School, Coach Brown coached his teams to seven state championships, and after back-to-back state runner-up finishes, he retired in 1992. Coach Brown’s teams appeared in ten state championship games at the Class 4A/5A level. His 263-67-6 overall record led to his induction into the Louisiana High School Football Hall of Fame. He also had numerous players go on to compete in major or mid-level college programs and had 12 who played in the NFL. There are numerous high school, college, and professional coaches today who played for him and were directly impacted by Coach Brown. I was blessed to be one of them.

Our Lord brought Coach Brown home in April 2011 and, for so many, the loss of Coach Brown was like losing the tallest tree in the forest. His passing left a big hole in the forest, but there were acorns that fell near that oak tree, and they are thriving thanks to Coach Brown. He left a legacy of commitment to excellence and of how to build character through sports.

Coach Brown had the ability to impart wisdom with the simplest of phrases. One was “Get UP and run it again.” Coach Brown was always about raising the bar on your standards, being fundamentally sound, persistent, playing as a family/team, chasing your failures (it’s not fatal, be resilient) and aiming for a higher purpose.

Why am I am sharing this with you? Every one of us has benefited at some point in our lives from the learned experiences of a parent, grandparent, principal, teacher, priest, pastor, coach, or mentor whose core message and life lessons still resonate with us today. That person saw something special and unique in you and held you accountable to yourself, your vision, a team, a responsibility, or an outcome. Coach Brown would say, “DO what you should DO, the right way, when you should DO it …whether you feel like it or not—own it.”

Commanded to Serve

We are all in some way a by-product of our unique life experiences. I’ve shared one of mine because of the profound effect one person, one coach, and participating in sports can have on the character and core values of your life. If you had or have someone similar in your life, then please count those blessings. Jesus taught us to pray and commanded us to serve. So remember to give back so that others can learn, develop, and improve.

We have something very special here at Mount de Sales Academy. Together, we can make it even better. We Can Do It!

Click here for more MDS Musings Blog posts. 

Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, which is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served  a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.