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Coach David Davis

Planning to Win

By Raphael Maurice

“I think [athletes] learn how to
figure things out when
they get difficult, and how to
never give up.”

David Davis is in his third year of coaching basketball at Meridian High School, a position for which he is more than qualified. He came to Meridian in his eighth-grade year and was drawn here, in part, by family and a best friend with whom he wanted to play sports, namely, basketball. But Coach Dave began as a baseball player, and a very good one. He was a lefty, adept at outfield, pitching, shortstop, and more. He could hit. In fact, it wasn’t until Davis’s sophomore year that he found himself leaving the field for the court. There were a few factors that contributed to this change.

His own baseball coach had fallen ill, and that was a hard thing to witness for Davis. Also, there were team dynamics he felt weren’t ideal and, in general, he found he was losing his “love for the game.” Basketball had always been a love and was calling. His father coached on the court in Cairo. Like his father, Coach Dave would renew that love of the game, and after three years as assistant coach, he’s now head coach of men’s basketball. Davis is frank about the transitions from field to court, from assistant to head coach. While assisting Coach Staples for three years, something happened: another illness, one that had to be promptly taken care of. Davis admittedly still relies on Staples’ counsel and advice, after the latter rebounded. The two still regularly talk, and Davis prays for him and wishes him well. And that’s the thing. To hear Coach Davis talk is to hear the voice of someone who really does wish everyone well, someone who meets students and athletes at their level, not his. As head coach at Meridian, Davis is simply a treasure. Aside from an undefeated season and being honored as Coach of the Year, Davis also is building the basketball program in a profound way. Last year, Meridian played in Memphis before the Grizzlies played. Next, it’s on to Indianapolis, where they’ll be playing Cairo before the Pacers take the court. Rivalries, like the one between Meridian and Cairo, are often healthy. They imbue us with a competitive spirit, a do-or-die attitude, a friendly but serious vying back and forth between towns and teams. Coach Dave more than understands this. What’s the secret, though? What do athletics teach, beyond the practices, losses, and wins?

“I think [athletes] learn how to become men. How to figure things out when they get difficult, and how to never give up.” Coach Davis also warns his players that when they might be sleeping, others are out working, running drills, shooting jumpers, and working. He stresses a strong work ethic with his team. But that’s not all. There’s a strategy to teaching players, to meeting them on their respective courts. Coach Dave knows them and knows them well, their strengths and opportunities to grow. In part, he learned a lot about human dynamics by surrounding himself with wiser people; he doesn’t care for the term “older.” To hear him talk, you’d know wisdom is another treasure Coach Dave has. And so when he needs to discipline his players, he judges them as individuals, not as a herd. How one phrase or comment might affect one player, will throw another on his heels, making him shut down. And when Coach talks about this, his wisdom and care shine through. He’s meeting these players and guiding them where they are, not where he thinks they should somehow be. Meridian is “home,” and Coach Dave is more than helping out around his house. When asked about helping kids from court to life, Coach notes,“I ask them what they want to be in life and what they want to do. The first thing I figure out is to find out if they have a plan. A lot of our kids don’t have plans. They become freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors who don’t know what they want to do when they graduate. So I want to get them started early. Set a goal, and there’ll be something that you’re trying to reach. So, once you’ve got that goal, I feel like you’ll do fine. I want you to do your best to get there.” Again, it’s in his voice. To hear Coach Davis speak is to know things will be fine, win or lose. Because, under coach Davis, sport mirrors life and his clear reflection brings focus to the journey.

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