by Andre Mitchell
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
When Steve Harvey's new daytime TV talk show debuts Sept. 4, former Memphis-area high school football coach, Tim Thompson, is scheduled to make a guest appearance – as an author. Here he talks with The New Tri-State Defender about his new book – "The Locker Room" – and how he hooked up with Harvey.
Tri-State Defender: Coach 'T,' what do you say to people who still doubt you and your ability after taking lack luster programs at several schools – Westwood, Melrose, Fayette-Ware (Fayette County) – and turning them around?
Coach Tim Thompson: I do what I do, that's coach, lead and inspire youth student-athletes and young professionals. In my coaching career, I have been through the fire so to speak, because of some choices that I have made, but nobody on this Earth is perfect. However, I am wiser as a coach and as a person now. And for all those people who may still doubt that I can get the job done, I simply say, "God takes you through certain life experiences to make you better, not bitter."
TSD: What is "The Locker Room" saying to anyone who reads it?
Coach 'T': In a nutshell, it's all about hope and inspiration. It talks about how you can be changed for the better by believing in who God has you to be and working hard to get where you want to go in life. Also, I think it will serve as a way for current coaches to realize that they are in a position to help turn lives around for the better. Anybody can be a coach, but can you be a father-figure, a mentor, a teacher, a counselor, a person who inspires others to become greater than that person ever imagined? Now that's a coach!
TSD: Whom (what target audience) did you write this book for?
Coach 'T': For anyone and everyone who wants to know how we took inner city, urban youth – many from dysfunctional, broken homes – and helped them make a successful life for themselves and their family through the game of football and the help of a traditionally strong community.
TSD: What inspired you to write/tell this story?
Coach 'T': There were people from the community, people in general, but mostly, it was the former players who would say to me from time to time that they wish they had "the locker room" in their current lives. Often, they say, "Coach, I sho' miss those locker room talks!" This was a time when we would be in the locker room before and after practice where we talked about things other than football.
We talked about life situations and I would often relate any scenario that they would throw at me to stories and relationships in the Bible. It's all there from A to Z and after a while, they would test me on how to relate their personal situations to the Bible. That's when I knew I had their ear and attention. So much in fact, they started bringing Bibles into the locker room to quiz me about certain things and together we would learn how to better deal with life. Of course, that's another reason why we were able to do what we did, the way we did it. We had God in the midst of it all.
TSD: "The Locker Room" is set to be mentioned on the new and upcoming "Steve Harvey Show." How did that come about?
Coach 'T': We shared the story idea with a few folks. As a matter of fact, we did an advance industry preview in Atlanta with Usher and Mary, Mary. Usher Raymond really liked the story and was blown away by what we did. One thing led to another and then marketing people began to get involved and when some of Steve Harvey's people got wind of it, then they said they wanted to step up (to) an opportunity to get on board as well. So we're set to appear as a special guest on Steve Harvey's upcoming television show on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network on Sept. 4, 2012.
TSD: What's next for Tim Thompson?
Coach 'T': I want to be able to bless someone else. If I had all the resources and the ability to do what I wanted, I would bless every underprivileged "ghetto" child in the world, especially the kids who live near the schools where I've coached. God told me to go back to where I got my start and open up educational, training centers for the kids in those communities.
So my vision is to go back to Westwood, Melrose, Fayette-Ware and Cypress. I got to go to North Memphis, without a doubt, and start a school to help the youth. That's not only what I want to do, it's what God has commissioned me to do. So I'm going to do it!
TSD: Growing up, who were your role models?
Coach "T": At home, it was my mother, Johnella Thompson. She taught me by example to have a strong work ethic. She had an entrepreneur's spirit and it was nothing for her to have four or five things going at once. However, at Cypress Junior High School it was coach Paul Holly and coach Odell Harris. They were like father figures to me. I admired Coach Holly and the way he was a married man who loved his family, but he loved his students and players as well. Mr. Harris was an industrial engineer who influenced me so much that I went on to TSU and majored in Industrial Engineering. Together they gave me the foundation to want to succeed in anything that I set out to do.
TSD: How did playing football help to define you as a person?
Coach "T": It gave me discipline and structure. It also held me accountable to my class work and my teammates.
TSD: What was your attitude toward academics during school?
Coach "T": I always was told and understood that academics was the way to a better life for my family and me. As a youth, my mother always stressed education. In order to do anything in life you had to be knowledgeable, so it was something I felt I had to have to be successful in life. In college, I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha and in our dorm we would have some deep conversations about why it was important to be educated. So I've always had a positive attitude towards academics. During my time at Melrose we had mandatory study hall, everyday, where we made athletes go study. I saw too many student-athletes become ineligble.
TSD: What led you into coaching and train athletes?
Coach "T": I credit Mr. Paul Holly for helping to save my life from the streets. Mr. Holly, along with "Big Man" (Mr. Odell Harris), gave me the guidance and vision to stay out of trouble and work at something that could take me further in life. I learned so much from these men through sports that it became a part of who I am. I love the game and I used lessons from it, as well as the Bible, to help my players understand how to better deal with people and life.
TSD: What would you say is your coaching/leadership philosophy?
Coach "T": I stress basic fundamentals, but I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, so I emphasize repetition, repetition and repetition. Keep it simple, but do it over and over until you get it right!
TSD: What do you say to striving student-athletes who want to take their game to the next level?
Coach "T": Believe in God, believe in yourself, work hard and do your best to look like where you want to go in life. For example, if you want to be successful at (anything), you must think, work and look like you're trying to be successful at whatever that (thing) is. Also, for them to know that persistence is so important; they got to keep working at being successful.
TSD: In your opinion, what makes the Orange Mound Community so special?
Coach "T": It was the fact that Orange Mound was a community that was built by and for African Americans. I attended Melrose at a time when crack cocaine came (and) began to destroy the principles and values that were once the backbone of the community. The people of Orange Mound wanted something positive to help them deal with the transformation that was occurring. In spite of all that might have been negative in the community, we wanted to give the community something to feel good about at the end of the day.
TSD: What made you decide to walk your team through The Mound?
Coach "T": I gained a lot of love from the Orange Mound community as a student at Melrose, so that's why 'The Mound' is special and was it important for me to make sure my teams showed love back to Orange Mound. We walked past the gang-bangers, the dope dealers and thugs on our way to games because we wanted to show the folks who grew up in Orange Mound that we cared about the community and we were there for them. We wanted to show them that we were united and that we had pride in Orange Mound.
TSD: Overall, what was your greatest challenge in coaching?
Coach "T": Changing the mentality of the players and getting them to "buy into" my vision and philosophy. Once they did that, it was on and poppin!
TSD: What would you say was your greatest challenge during your state championship runs?
Coach "T": Getting the guys to understand that we were facing a different type of challenge. When you take a team practicing on a rock-filled baseball diamond, with a bunch of water hoses hooked together, extremely limited resources and then have to compete against teams with multi-million dollar practice facilities and unlimited resources, my guys had to understand, we was David facing Goliath.