By: Anthony Watson
While writing for the Cardinal Rule last semester I had the pleasure of meeting arguably one of the most important members of Troy’s athletic system – strength and conditioning coach Richard Shaughnessy.
Shaughnessy oversees the training regimen of all of the 300-something athletes that attend Troy and is responsible for more than 70 of Troy’s athletes making it to the next level.
One thing that stuck out to me during the interview was his relationship with his athletes, particularly the football players. “Some of these guys come from rough backgrounds,” he said, explaining that coaches often times are there for players during times of emotional stress. Shaughnessy said that one of the most enjoyable parts of his job is the opportunity to invest himself and help these guys transform into responsible young men. “Because a coach did it for me,” was his reason for doing so.
This got me thinking… as a high school soccer player, I had a coach do the exact same thing for me.
When I was 16 I played for a travel soccer team. Like most 16-year olds boys, I was only concerned with a couple of things, and it definitely wasn’t a sport or my studies. Then I met Marc Johnson.
MJ, as we all called him, was originally one of the sternest people I’ve ever met. For example: one of our players (our best player and my best friend at the time) was cleaning dead grass off of his boot during a warm-up, and he wasn’t allowed to play the first half of the game because he wasn’t paying attention.
That’s just who he was. He didn’t play games. My whole life I grew up in a single parent household with not a lot of money. In school I would get the worst teachers. Principals, counselors and teachers would consistently look me over for accelerated programs because I didn’t have important parents. Organized sports was where I excelled. Sports allow you to be judged on your merit and character alone.
MJ was one of the first people that looked at me and treated me like a man. MJ had confidence in me, and because he had confidence in me, I had confidence in myself.
Starting out, I wasn’t the best soccer player, but MJ worked with me and taught me something I’ve always used and will continue to use for the rest of my life. He taught me the importance of work ethic.
“If the game takes an unfortunate turn or you get a bad break, that’s fine,” he would say. “The only thing you have to do to counteract that is step up your work rate and you’ll be fine.”
That single piece of advice has saved my life. Even though I didn’t successfully make the transition from high school to college athletics, I used that advice and have seen my life improve ten-fold.
I received some looks from colleges, but none of them offered scholarships. In order to graduate college with no debt I had to either work or get scholarships, so to work I went. I now work a few jobs to pay for my education, but I will graduate with no debt.
MJ only coached me for one year before leaving to coach college soccer. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since and honestly don’t know where he is or what he’s doing, but I will never forget the principles he instilled in me, how it has changed my life for the better and how I will pass that same outlook to my children.
Even though I know you’ll never read this, MJ, thank you for caring about me when no one else did. You saved my life.