By Greg Gulas
For the first time in 37 years, former Poland High softball coach Reid Lamport is a mentor without a team.
On the first day when Ohio high schools were permitted to start tossing the ball around in preparation for the upcoming diamond season, Lamport spoke to the Curbstone Coaches on Monday.
While admitting to withdrawal symptoms, Lamport told the group how blessed he was to have been able to touch so many lives through athletics, also noting that there is a big difference between today’s athletes and those of yesteryear.
“The biggest difference between athletes today and those from the past is attitude,” Lamport said. “When I was 10 years old growing up in Newton Falls, the group I hung around with couldn’t wait for two-a-day football practices to start because we would spend all day just watching our heroes.
“We’d put on our JC Higgins uniforms, gather up pop bottles so we could make a few pennies and then go out and buy lime so we could line our field and play like the big boys,” Lamport said. “When the big game on Friday night arrived, we were in heaven.”
While his youth was filled with fun and much desired competition, Lamport noted that everything today is far too organized.
“We played football, basketball and baseball but when June came, we got to enjoy summer,” Lamport said. “Now there’s open gym, 7-on-7 football leagues, weight-lifting and so many other distractions that have robbed our youth of their childhood.
“Coaches want you to be at everything and if you miss, they count it against you.”
Lamport coached football for 32 years — softball for 23 seasons. As a softball coach, he led the Bulldogs to a 530-115 overall mark, 17 regional appearances, four final four state appearances, a state title and two runner-up finishes.
Admittedly, he learned as much from his players as they did from him.
“In our era, our parents left us in charge and if by chance two 10-year old kids were arguing, mom and dad told us to ‘just work it out.’ There were compromises and concessions we had to learn on our own,” Lamport said. “I believe we’ve become too involved by stepping in as adults and organizing leagues for 5-year-olds.”
Working as a developmentally handicapped/learning disabilities teacher for nearly 40 years has had its rewards.
“The thrill of coaching is working with athletes and seeing their improvement,” Lamport said, “Being in special education, just knowing that you have been a small part of their education process has been just as rewarding.”