I entered Coach Don Meyer’s huddle for the first time in the fall of 1994. The Voice of the Bisons, Jonathan Seamon, gave me the opportunity to be the sideline reporter for the radio broadcasts of Lipscomb basketball games. My main responsibility was summarizing what I had heard in the Bison huddles during timeouts. To say that I was terrified as I peeked through the players on the outside of the huddle was an understatement. Coach was incredibly intense on the court.
In the five years that followed I took on an expanded role at Lipscomb with sports information, marketing, radio and promotions. At the time I didn’t realize that I was in the middle of the most important life training I would ever receive.
Coach was our biggest fan as we looked for creative ways to encourage attendance at basketball games. More than 400 students joined the McQuiddy Maniacs fan club. Farmer Night saw our students come barefooted, dressed in overalls and straw hats as we made fun of our friends from Freed-Hardeman and awarded the Golden Pitchfork to the best dressed fan. There was Operation Cover McQuiddy where we attempted to cover every square inch of wall space in McQuiddy Gym with signs and banners. When Cumberland coach Mike Petrone was quoted in the Lebanon newspaper as saying that the reason Lipscomb’s record was always so good was because we played a “bunch of cupcakes” we had Cupcake Night and encouraged all of our Bison Club members to bake cupcakes. They did just that. My brother Chad actually walked up to Coach Petrone before the game with a Xerox copy of his quote from the paper and handed him a cupcake. Then there were those final games with Belmont in 1996 before they left for the NCAA. We made an acrostic banner using the letters N-C-A-A and out beside them put “No Country Artists Allowed” in reference to Vince Gill. At halftime we played Vince’s version of I Will Always Love You. On cue we had all of our students boo. Then we cued up Whitney Houston’s version of the song and our crowd cheered. Vince got up from his seat behind the Belmont bench, ran down to the endzone, pulled the NCAA sign off the wall, wadded it up and threw it at our student section.
Coach loved it all. He would stop by our office just off the playing floor of McQuiddy to see what we were working on that day.
As I landed my first job at Lipscomb in the summer of 1996, Coach’s interactions with me became more regular and seemingly more directive in nature. One day he walked into my office and handed me the book Make the Big Time Where You Are by Frosty Westering.
“Read this,” he said. Then he walked out.
I hated reading thanks to the summer reading program we had in high school. Truth be known the last book I had actually read was the monstrosity known as David Copperfield and that was the summer before my 9th grade year.
I read Frosty’s book….and I loved it. I gave the book back to Coach with my glowing review. Then he handed me Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. I devoured that one too and in the process learned that I actually loved to read, something that has carried through to this day.
About once a week Coach would call around 11:20 a.m. “Let’s go,” he’d say and then hang up before I had a chance to respond. I would then walk across campus to Holman House where the basketball offices were located. We’d pile into one of his famous Honda Accords and begin what was usually at least a two-hour lunch trip. On the way to and from Captain D’s (the Melrose location and then the Brentwood location after Coach’s favorite Captain D’s employee “Ro” moved from Melrose to Brentwood) we would drive all over creation looking at houses while listening to Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh on the radio. We discussed all sorts of issues and matters. If I had a nickel for every “Jiminey Christmas!” that Coach would utter I’d be a rich man.
I’ve been a real estate agent for the last 12 years thanks in large part to Coach introducing me to the world of real estate on those drives. I always pick up the lunch check too – something Coach always did for me at Captain D’s.
When I decided to leave Lipscomb in 1999 to pursue a youth ministry position, Coach stopped me outside my office and offered the following words of wisdom:
“Brent, you are extremely talented. You are a leader. You just get pissed off too easily. That’s something you need to work on.”
I eventually did just that, largely on Coach’s advice, when I completed my master’s degree in conflict management.
Coach modeled showing appreciation and concern in the form of handwritten notes. He was truly an artist with the way he encouraged others with blue ink. I have been on the receiving end of dozens of those notes from Coach over the years. Each one seemed to appear in my mailbox at the perfect moment.
In November of 2003, a handwritten note appeared in my mailbox. It wasn’t from Coach, but Coach had asked the sender to write to me. I was extremely sick at the time. I had a tumor that was blocking most of the air flow to my right lung. I took note of the return address label on the outside of the envelope, but didn’t quite believe what I was seeing until I opened the envelope and read the letter:
A mutual friend, Don Meyer, asked that I send a note to you.
Since I am very fond of Don, I am very pleased to extend my best wishes to you.
May this holiday season and new year bring all nations in this troubled world nearer enduring peace and all people closer to true love for one another.
Handwritten notes have been a staple of my personal and professional life thanks to Coach Meyer. When I have been asked to speak to various groups about the success we’ve enjoyed with Third Coast Sports and our Faith Day events, invariably I tell the story of how we broke into Major League Baseball with the Atlanta Braves in 2006.
After a successful 2005 season which saw our concept to 13 minor league baseball teams across the country, we decided we were ready to take our idea to the big leagues. After a series of negotiations with the Atlanta Braves, they finally gave the green light. However, they could not have given us a less attractive set of factors:
Thursday, July 26
1:05 p.m. start
98 degree forecast
Against the lowly Florida Marlins
Six weeks from today
What did we do? We worked 20-hour days for four days straight with our entire staff and all of our interns sending handwritten notes to 10,000 church leaders within a three-hour radius of Atlanta.
The rest of the story is since those four days and 10,000 notes that left our wrists on the verge of carpal tunnel syndrome and our bellies full of midnight Mellow Mushroom pizza, we have done more than 300 Faith Day events with more than 75 pro baseball teams. We’ve worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, L.A. Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. Players including Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, John Smoltz and Lance Berkman have given their personal testimonies. Bands including MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns and Third Day have led hundreds of thousands in worship at baseball parks.
None of it would have been possible unless that first event in Atlanta was a success. I am firmly convinced without those handwritten notes it would have been a flop.
There were many other lessons Coach lived out in front of me that I try to embrace in my own life. The importance of prayer and daily Bible study, including the “least of these” and leaving a place better than you found it are just a few.
When my boys were 5 and 6 years old, they played baseball in the Crieve Hall farm league. Thanks to Coach’s teaching, after each game our teams would spread out all over the infield with the goal of picking up at least 10 rocks from the infield.
I am just one of many who Coach Meyer has impacted for eternity.
It occurred to me this week that without Coach Meyer and his basketball camps, Emily Pleasant probably chooses Union University over Lipscomb and there is no Brent and Emily High. There is no Houston. There is no Hunter.
I follow Jesus more closely because of Coach. I am a better husband, father, coach, employer and employee because of Coach.
Now it’s my turn to be Coach and in the process be Jesus to a new generation of young people in need of the same training and mentoring I was privileged to receive from such a great man.
Thank you Coach. I love you. I will see you soon. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to bring as many people with me as possible.
– Brent High, Associate Athletic Director, Lipscomb University