BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — During the annual Maumee Hometown Hero Awards Banquet, the Bridge Award is presented to a youth advocate, someone who has helped foster and develop youth citizenship in the community.
This year, the honor will be presented to two coaches in Maumee, Brian Jones and Cam Coutcher, for the work they do on and off the field.
As the current head football coach for Maumee High School and an eighth-grade English teacher at Gateway, Cam Coutcher plays a role in the lives of many youngsters, a role he does not take lightly.
Coutcher has been with Maumee City Schools for 21 years, teaching and coaching – baseball, football or both. In that time, he has developed a philosophy on how best to serve his players and students.
“I started a ‘why’ board for my students and I put my why up there, which is ‘to give energy to others and positively impact people,’” Coutcher said. “A lot of times we focus on the outcomes and wins and losses … but the best years I’ve had was when I was able to make a connection with kids and feel like I made a difference with kids.”
Several of the people who know him saw the difference he has made, not just with his own, direct players, but with the rest of the youth football players in the community, and felt he deserved the Bridge Award.
“I just felt, what he has been doing – in terms of fostering the youth and also engaging other individuals outside of the team – has been far above and beyond the expectation for somebody who has been hired to be a coach,” Alex Schrinel said. “He’s created a lot of programs that integrate the middle schoolers, not only the football players, but other athletes, into things like weightlifting. He also does a lot of free camps that are held at different times throughout the year.”
Schrinel, a former student and player of Coutcher’s who is now part of the coaching staff, nominated Coutcher because he has witnessed firsthand how Coutcher influences youth in the community.
“He not only helps those middle schoolers grow, but is also helping create connections between them and the high schoolers,” Schrinel said.
Those connections, in turn, motivate the high schoolers who can be seen helping out at the younger kids’ games – working concessions, chains and even commentary. High schoolers supporting younger generations of players and investing their time is a way to build community pride, Coutcher said.
Both on and off the field, Coutcher does his best to be an exemplary male role model and to instill positive self-esteem in each child he comes across.
“Just being able to be there for kids and being a good role model, I think that’s my favorite part,” Coutcher said.
In his classroom at Gateway, on the field with the high school players and in the stands at other events throughout Maumee, Coutcher displays pride in his hometown and the people he cares about in the town.
While working a full-time job with Pepsi, Brian Jones also manages to travel around the Northwest Ohio area to support both current and future Maumee High School softball players.
Jen Pyle, the parent of current MHS softball player Peyton Phillips was spurred to nominate Jones because of his support for the players off the field and outside of the season.
“He has proven that he is dedicated, not just to the girls at Maumee, but really to all athletes because he supports all sports,” Pyle said.
Jones attends these events as a way to build relationships with the players and the students.
“When you’re a coach, it’s not just about the season you’re in. It’s important to watch them play travel ball or soccer or other things and communicate throughout the year, because then they know you really care,” Jones said. “Plus, you get to know the parents a little more when you sit down and talk to them. I think that’s important just to build that relationship with the family and players.”
The relationships Jones has built led several parents and players – current and former – to nominate him for the Bridge Award. The letters of nomination mean Jones has done something right and gotten through to the kids he guides, he said.
Teaching them about the sport and life, though, is not a one-man operation. It requires dedication from all of those on the coaching staff as well as the players and their families.
“I just want to say thanks to everybody because obviously one person can’t do what we do,” Jones said.
As for his players – past, present and future – Jones wants them to focus on being better people, not just better softball players. He said his goal is for them to remember the fun times – the dancing, singing and bonding – and to give every day their best effort.
It means a lot to Jones that he has had such a lasting impact on players and their families. Some still reach out to thank him for the lessons he taught, Jones said.
“He is just the epitome of the coach that I want my kids to have. We are very lucky to have him in Maumee,” Pyle said.
In her nomination letter, Pyle’s daughter Peyton told the selection committee that Jones is more concerned with the people the players grow into and always wants them to know he cares.
“Time and time again, he has gone out of his way to help me become a better person on and off the softball field,” she wrote in her letter.
For these reasons, Pyle and several others wanted to recognize Jones for the effort he has put into making their children better all around, she said.
“Softball is not the end-all, be-all. These girls will graduate and go on to be adults, and he’s concerned about what life lessons he can teach while coaching softball,” Pyle said. “He’s a pretty great guy.”