By Oxford High School Graduate, Nick Shufflin
As I sit here in a tundra 1,217 miles (according to Google Maps) from the place that had one of the most influential impacts on my life, I can’t help but ponder how my life would be had it not been for my short time at Oxford High School.
The place I live now is cold (it makes Michigan look nice for a warm getaway), the work is hard and the men that perform the work out here ranging from coal, agriculture, oil and gas are some of the toughest in the country without question. There seems to be a stigma, though, with people who come from the more eastern states as being soft, timid and sometimes just down right wimpy. Throughout my career in the energy industry, a lot of the locals and other people from these more western states always seemed to be surprised with what I was willing to put myself through to help the team and get the job done.
Due to a little luck and some blessings from above, I no longer have to put myself in those situations, but the path to where I am today entailed a lot of sweat equity, calloused hands, staying physically fit, a strong work ethic and the will to prepare for anything that could come next.
The will to prepare (most importantly) is an underrated concept imprinted upon me during my time at OHS and one I have taken with me throughout my life, which has lead me to where I am today; happy, confident and self-satisfied with my career. But how did such a simple concept become so instilled upon me? Enter: Coach Bud Rowley
Coach Rowley needs no introduction as we all know who he is and what he’s about. However, due to recent events, allegations and statements made by a few people within the community, I feel no less than compelled to set the record straight. My recent insight comes from multiple firsthand accounts and it is of great concern that a man who is the epitome of what it means to be a positive influence on our youth could have ever been under fire from anyone, especially parents of his players for that matter.
There was a time when a coach could grab the face mask of his player and the parent of that player would say to his/her son, “Did you get the message? What did you do wrong on that one? I bet you won’t do that again!” I was recently informed of these so-called “events” that took place surrounding Coach Rowley. While this “outrage” of information (which apparently triggered some folks) was being spewed upon me, I had flashbacks while reminiscing of the days when Coach would chew my rear end and made sure I gave him my all on the next play… and I smiled. But I won’t lie, like any normal parent, I too wondered what these players did wrong.
You know what thoughts I didn’t entertain though?
“He had no right! How could he?! That’s not his child!”
Listen, parents, it isn’t his child, it’s a player on his team. I acknowledge the fact parents today feel the need to wrap their children in a pillow suit as they learn to ride a bike. But aren’t the football pads and helmet enough; without having you undermine the coach who is literally helping your sons become ready for manhood as they depart on their own walk in life? Do you think as your sons get older they won’t encounter adversity and other situations which will make a little slap, push and grab of the face mask seem trivial? They aren’t trivial though, they are necessary. They are necessary to prepare your sons for what’s to come and what life will throw at them.
October 14, 2005, is a day which probably few will remember, but I remember it clearly. Our team was playing an unbeaten Linden team and as memory would recall we won that game. As the record will show (which is all that matters), due to an “unfair” decision made by a ref in overtime, the game prolonged its way to triple overtime, and we lost. It was a bad call, egregious and in that moment, the world was dark in the minds of an OHS varsity football player. What I remember most was the next game though. We knew we weren’t going to the playoffs. Still, due to a “never say die” attitude put forth upon us by Coach, we went out on our last game for the season against Fenton and for lack of better words, gave them what the unruly youth of today really need (it wasn’t a “time-out”). That’s hard to do when you know your season is over. More importantly, it takes a special person to get kids in that situation motivated, and to understand the importance of pressing on when the chips are down. No participation trophies were handed out, instead we took something with us much more advantageous and paramount, a lesson learned. Life’s not fair, keep moving. Thanks Coach
Now you can look at the past records, scores of the games and make debates all you want as to whether or not Coach Rowley should have been coaching still to this day. One record you’ll never see though is how more prepared your sons were when they left high school and life hit them the hardest. Trust me when I say this, it’s a perfect record. Another record is how Coach never gave up on his players, he demanded they gave their best to the point there was nothing left to give. So having said this, I can’t help but contemplate how could the Oxford community remain silent and sit idly by as a minority of flimsy people push for “something new” or “less extreme” when that same man never gave up on their sons? Coach Rowley’s intensity should not have been met with opposition from anyone but rather embraced by all, especially the players’ parents. Had support been where it needed to be, who knows, perhaps a couple of those losses would have been wins. “Are you insinuating I’m a bad parent?!” If you asked that, that is your conclusion not mine.
For many years Coach Rowley has molded the character of the Oxford community’s students for the better and enabled his players to achieve what most never would have prior to his mentoring; being fearless of failure in the pursuit of success. Is that not a win in and of itself? And why would we not want this to continue on for as long as possible? This was not meant to be a call to action but rather a wakeup call, a wakeup call to those whose lives were fortunate enough to be influenced by Coach. Was is not evident that aside from his own son, the kids in Oxford and coaching football were the love of his life? Perhaps we should dig a little deeper in the matter or maybe get a hold of the athletic director Mr. Ackerman, the people who make up the Oxford school board or even the superintendent Tim Throne as to why Coach resigned and give them the “what for”. Was it encouraged and if so why? Or if you really care, ask Coach Rowley if he really wanted to resign. Some of these people are voted in correct? On second thought, I reckon this is a call to act, a suggestion at the very least.
The will to prepare in the eyes of any OHS football player will most likely be defined and in reference to the pre-season workouts, studying for a test and putting the time in to be successful within their immediate but provisional circumstances. What they may overlook, are those habits being prerequisites for what’s to come when they are older, the will to prepare in life. Again, thanks Coach, lesson learned.
In closing, Coach, I know I am speaking on behalf of the masses for over the past 40 years when I say this. Thank you, thank you for pushing us to give more, be humble and strive to become virtuous people who are assets to our communities. Thank you for clutching our facemasks and ensuring we absorbed the timeless lessons that prepared us to become successful, press on after our failures and have the confidence to do so along the way. We love you for it.
-Nick Shufflin, Class of 2006