In the fall of 2006, I started coaching football at Western Dubuque High School and was given the opportunity
to work with one of the most incredible people I have encountered. Tom Danner changed my life by exposing me to a whole new style of coaching and directed my focus to what really matters. I think I could be accurately described as a competitive person and prior to coaching in Western Dubuque, I was hyper-focused on winning at all costs. There is nothing wrong with being competitive while attempting to win games; however, it is not the primary objective of coaching. Teaching and coaching are about connecting with kids while pushing them to achieve more than they thought possible.
There are so many lessons I have learned from Tom over the years and I don't have enough space to adequately describe them, so I am going to narrow it down to the three most important I have learned from one of my true heroes.
Every Bobcat Matters
Whether he is talking to the starting quarterback, the third-string offensive tackle, or middle of the road performing student, he has treated everyone with dignity and respect in every interaction. Tom has a gift of making everyone he encounters feel valued and that they are part of something. People often talk about being inclusive and establishing a belonging in all kids. I have not encountered anyone who lives this more than Tom Danner. This man has gone out of his way to include the underdog, reach out to the student who can't seem to find his or her voice, establish an amazing sense of team, while instilling leadership in all people.
Be a Good Person
At the end of the day, this is what it is all about. Tom has modeled kindness, empathy, compassion, and honesty at every single turn in his life. I am incredibly grateful for the time he has invested in me.
Work Hard and Get Better
Perfection is never the expectation; growth always is. Tom Danner is never satisfied and constantly striving to get better today than he was yesterday. I will never forget a football game where we destroyed a rival opponent by more than 40 points. After the game, the football coaching staff gathered in the office to debrief and unwind. The first words out of Tom's mouth on this particular night were, "Well, what do we need to do to get better on Monday?" We literally ran all over this team, but Tom's focus continued to be, as it always is, on moving forward and getting better.
My competitive drive has not gone away, but I have redirected my focus to what matters most, thanks to Tom. There are certain people in this world who have the ability to motivate, challenge your thinking, establish connections, allow you to see things differently, and have an unmistakable impact on your life. Tom Danner is that person to me and I cannot thank him enough for changing my life. I wish my friend, mentor, and hero the absolute best, as he announced his retirement from education at the end of this school year. This man has influenced me in a way that I hope you can somewhat understand after reading this post. The world needs more people like Tom. People who live with Heart, Intensity, and Class. Who’s your Tom Danner?