November 14, 2019

WNY Coaches Honored at Nov. 3 Bills Game

Before the kickoff at the Bills vs. Washington Redskins game at New Era Field on Nov. 3, hundreds of local youth sports coaches gathered in the stadium’s Business Class Suite to celebrate their successes.

They weren’t celebrating wins and losses, but rather their ability to establish a supportive team culture among their young athletes.

Coaches in attendance were selected as a result of a community-wide nomination process by area youth sports organizations and became part of the first-ever Project Play WNY Coaches Honor Roll. Coaches received two tickets to the game and a commemorative Bills hat.

During the pre-game event, coaches were treated to brunch and opening remarks from Bills legend, Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas, who talked about his youth sports experience. “I had some great coaches who understood the fun that we were supposed to have and the fundamentals. Those were the two most important things, and what it’s all about,” he said.

Next, Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and his former coach and mentor, Coach Roz, led a discussion on youth sports and character. Phillips discussed the importance of having coaches at a young age who understood that winning was not the most important thing, adding that he now values that they would give him the small attainable goals to work toward for every match or game. By celebrating even the failures, he said, “I learned a lot about myself and about how fun sports can be.”

Coach Roz, who flew in from Sacramento, Ca. to participate in the event, said that coaches in his program do the best that they can to use football as a platform for character development. He noted that one non-negotiable rule they have as coaches is to “only holler when you’re happy.”

“We just believe that our kids get yelled at enough,” he explained. “They don’t need to come to football practice to get yelled at.” Another coaching rule he lives by: every kid on the team plays no matter what. “Playing is more important than the score,” he said.

Also flying in from the west coast was Steven Moore, the uncle and youth sports coach of Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. Moore flew in from Oakland, Ca., where he has been coaching football for many years. As a youth sports coach, Moore teaches foundations for hard work and accountability. The biggest piece of advice he gave to the audience was, “Treat athletes as individuals. What works for one doesn’t always work for everyone.”

Dick Gallagher was awarded the first-ever Project Play WNY Thank You Coach Lifetime Service Award for his work to support, recognize and advocate for Western New York’s student-athletes and coaches.  Dick’s message to fans and athletes is always positive and represents the ideals that Project Play WNY hopes to emphasize across its eight-county region. Gallagher shared his thoughts on about what the letters in “coach” mean: C for character, O for “you have to be organized,” A for “be amicable,” C for being able to communicate, and H for it’s an honor and a gift to be a coach.

To conclude the program, Dave Egner, President and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, discussed the importance of the work the coaches in the audience are doing. “Sports is one of the learning blocks of civic discourse,” he said. “When you play sports, we know that you have a better propensity for learning, you have a better opportunity to get into college, you do better professionally. It’s the building blocks of learning and leading and how a team should function and so, it matters.”

The programming ended before the 1 p.m. kickoff of Buffalo’s beloved Bills taking on the Washington Redskins, where the Bills came away with a 24-9 win.

Project Play WNY is a collective impact initiative funded by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The initiative includes 87 individuals who are focused on ensuring all WNY kids have the opportunity to be active through sport.  For more information, visit projectplaywny.org.