Certainly most who’ve gone through the school experience will attest to the fact there are certain lessons best taught through athletics, lessons that simply cannot be replicated within the four walls of a conventional classroom.
However, when it comes to the lessons a coach can impart to a player, there is generally an expiration date, both for those lessons and the interaction between them, and that expiration is often in early June on graduation day. One would have assumed that would have been the case with 1976 Perry graduate Greg Williamson and his former basketball coach, John Bean, a 1966 Lima Senior graduate.
Sure, there was some occasional contact between the two through the ensuing years while Williamson was carving out his career with the Ohio Department of Transportation prior to his 2015 retirement and Bean’s two careers, first, as a teacher, coach and administrator at Bucyrus High School after his departure from Perry in 1977, and then as a financial advisor for Lutheran Brotherhood, which began in 1990 when he left as principal at Bucyrus. In 2002 he founded his own Columbus-based business, The Financial Solutions Network.
In addition, Bean, circled back to his love of kids fostered by 20 years in education when he also founded a non-profit, Commitment to Kids, a program designed to provide hope and encouragement for young people, especially those from unstable home environments, through sports and other programs.
A lot of that contact between former coach and player revolved around what first brought them together — basketball, especially when the man known as Radar, a sobriquet bestowed upon him during his playing days for his long-range shooting abilities, was the driving force in creating Team Lima Basketball Club in 1993.
By 2008, after years of using basketball as a platform to mentor young people and provide them with positive alternatives to the temptations that can be found on Lima’s streets, Team Lima morphed into Tier 1 Sports Academy with broader emphases on athletic training in several sports. Williamson over the years has seen hundreds of kids grow both academically and athletically and earn scholarships.
Partnering with Quincy Simpson, Lima Senior boys basketball coach, Williamson continues to train and mentor athletes from both the Lima area and beyond who come to train. Williamson is also extremely active on Facebook promoting Tier 1 and posting updates on a number of former Lima-area schoolboy and schoolgirl athletes with ties to Tier 1 such as Zavier Simpson, Ellissa Ellerbrock, Darius West, Kierre James, Martese Kimbrough and Taren Sullivan.
It was in 2013, that Williamson received a call from his former basketball coach, asking him if he would train his grandson Chase Adams, then an aspiring freshman basketballer at Big Walnut High School, about 25 miles outside of Columbus.
Through frequent trips to Lima, with Grandpa Bean driving grandson, the bond between two former Commodores, coach and player, intensified.
Recalls Williamson, “That’s when we realized how closely aligned Coach’s Commitment to Kids was to what myself and Quincy and men like Chris Jackson, Warren Pughsley and several others try to do at Tier 1. You might say, there was kind of a marriage of sorts between the two organizations.”
And, it was those organizations that again partnered in bringing together a program targeting the Lima community’s youth last Wednesday, when three outstanding speakers with strong Buckeye roots made the drive from Columbus.
In addition to one of, if not, the most favorite Lima son, 1984 Lima Senior graduate William White, who treats his 2016 diagnosis of the neuromuscular disease with no known cure, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as merely a sidebar to a life so incredibly well lived. There was former defensive standout and two-time Buckeye All-American Matt Finkes, who, as Director of Development at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State, is assisting his dear friend William in his efforts to fund ALS research. The keynote speaker was current Buckeye head wrestling coach, Tom Ryan, a two-time NCAA Coach of the Year, whose 2015 Buckeye squad captured the NCAA National Championship. Powerful speakers deliver powerful messages, and that can be said for all three.
And, as for the final word on the evolution of Coach Bean’s relationship with his former sharp-shooting guard long after the latter flipped that mortarboard tassel from the right to the left on commencement day, I’m sure Radar would defer to giving his former coach the last word about what it’s meant.
“In my 20 years in education, I’ve met some amazing young people but none more impressive than Greg. He has devoted countless hours to using a game at which he excelled to develop and mentor young people, especially those who haven’t had strong parental influences in their lives. Where I once knew him as an impressive kid, he has grown over time to become an amazing man. I will tell you, for an educator, there is no greater joy than seeing the pupil become the teacher.”
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.