COACH

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from C1

“With­out them maybe I would have cho­sen a path that wasn’t the best,” Ra­tledge said. “I try to give that same men­tor­ship.”

It is a call­ing of sac­ri­fice — a sac­ri­fice of time, en­ergy, nights at home, free time and time with fam­ily. And one of the most dif­fi­cult parts of that call­ing is watch­ing a player who has that in­vest­ment of his coach and who does not find suc­cess in life.

“The hard­est thing about coach­ing is the kids who have bro­ken my heart,” Ra­tledge said. “My fail­ure to reach those kids. You tor­ment your­self. Maybe you could have done or said some­thing dif­fer­ent. … It hurts you when they’re not suc­cess­ful.”

But some­times it is not un­til later in life that coaches dis­cover what kind of im­pact they have had on the youth they trained and men­tored.

“I go back to re­u­nions and try to keep up with my kids,” Ra­tledge said. “You’re watch­ing them grow into fine young men and hus­bands and fa­thers. You like to think you had a small part in it.”

Ra­tledge has seen a lot of changes in his 40

years of coach­ing. He sees more chil­dren from bro­ken homes now and more chil­dren who are un­will­ing to give re­spect to adults from the start.

“It’s harder to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship,” he said. “They have an at­ti­tude like, ‘Why should I trust you?’ But I think af­ter a while you can reach them and earn their re­spect.”

And for the next few years, at least, Ra­tledge Con­trib­uted photo

Dean Ra­tledge (clock­wise, from left), his wife Mary Stu­art Ra­tledge, daugh­ter Em­ma­line and son Tate dur­ing Ra­tledge’s coach­ing years at Bradley County in Ten­nessee.

will stay true to his mis­sion of coach­ing and men­tor­ing and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in his play­ers’ lives.

“The good Lord’s been good to me,” he said. “I’ve just got the old man stuff (typ­i­cal aches and pains), but I’m healthy. … I’ve re­ally never worked a day in my life. That’s not to say there weren’t days it wasn’t all good, but I’ve been blessed.”

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