Georgia Southern’s Jeff Monken recalls his dad, an Illinois high school Hall of Famer, who “coached like he fathered … a great model of leadership.”
I have heard it said, “Giving your son a skill is better than giving him a thousand pieces of gold.”
As the son of a high school football coach, I never imagined doing anything else but teaching and coaching. I have always wanted to be just like my father, and I love being a coach. Though, I must admit that there were days as a struggling graduate assistant that I may have considered the thousand pieces of gold.
My father, as fathers have done for their sons for centuries, taught me a skill … service to others. It is a skill too few of us value and one that I hope I am instilling into the fabric of our program at Georgia Southern.
Mike Monken was born into a family in Southern Illinois that would grow to become one of the most well-known coaching families in the Midwest. Five Monken brothers, all of whom are now members of the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame, were high school head coaches in the state of Illinois at the same time while I was growing up. It is with tremendous pride that I say that because I know that it was not the win-loss record that got my dad nominated and selected for the Hall. His humility, his work ethic, the discipline he taught his teams, his love for people, and his service to others was what made him special, and that put him in the Hall of Fame in the minds of countless people, including me, long before a plaque ever went on a wall.
I have a great dad. It would be difficult for me to be convinced that any child ever had a better role model as a father than my siblings and I had in ours. My dad loved being a father, and he loved coaching. He coached with passion and parented the same way. As a coach, he loved the preparation, the practice, the self-discipline that is taught, the fundamentals, the competition, and the lessons that are learned in victory and defeat. As a kid I lived for those Friday nights at Joliet East High School and so did my dad. Yet he always put his faith and his family first. He always had time for us and spent time doing things with us that we wanted to do. He has lived his life as a servant to others. Real men do that. … They put the needs of those that are dependent upon them before their own needs. They are always there for those that count on them. My dad is a living example of that.
I had the good fortune to play for my dad in high school. To share that experience with my father … the offseason workouts, the grind of August practices, the games, the last ones to leave for home after the lights went out, the talks about the game or practice on the way home … are cherished, priceless memories. He coached like he fathered … loving, forgiving, patient, and fair but demanding of our best and firm in discipline … a great model of leadership.
I am so proud to bear the name of my father. I pray that my children will have the same love, admiration, trust, and respect for me that I have for my father when they are grown. If they do, I know I will have lived a good life.
As told to Doug Roberson