Ask any longtime Spokane resident what comes to mind when they hear the name Hillyard. Chances are the words aren’t the most flattering.
Hillyard isn’t affluent, but what it lacks for in money, it makes up for with spirit and community pride. Take, for instance, a handful of men that faithfully coach kids in the Grid Kids football program. Kids are assigned to a team based on their neighborhood high school, with the idea that there will be a cohesive team ready to be incorporated into the high school sports program.
I guarantee the kids that are a part of this program in Hillyard get more than training for high school sports. My son has been a part of the Pirates for four years. When Andrew started, his coach had been an assistant for a while, just starting his first year as head coach. Mike Phillips had assembled a great team of willing fathers to coach the fourth- and fifth-grade boys. That first year was full of learning about more than football: It was about learning how to be a team and play your best and have fun.
In the past four years, Phillips has been lucky enough to have a core group of men developing this program in Hillyard. A couple of years ago he started a conditioning camp that does more than prepare these kids for football. Not a practice goes by that you don’t hear them remind the kids to have fun, play fair, do their best, give 100 percent. These men pay attention to the kids as individuals, building up their strengths, redirecting their weaknesses. During these weeks of conditioning, eighth-graders do drills alongside third-graders. The big kids are reminded they are role models to the younger kids. They are learning to be leaders and mentors.
The men coaching these teams are interested in seeing Hillyard’s youth win in life. They encourage community involvement and success in school. They see their work on the field as an investment in the future of this community. Ask any of these coaches what their goal is and the first word out of their mouth isn’t “winning.” You’ll hear: Learn. Improve. Have fun. Be a better person leaving than when you started. Be a team player. Pay it forward and give back. It is these kinds of lessons that will create winners in every aspect of life.
As we prepare for summer to wind down and get ready for fall, let’s not forget the men who are busy building up the youth for our community. Let’s remember that sometimes it helps to have a village participate in the raising of our kids. Thank you Pirate coaches Shawn Fissette, Roger Craver, Mike Phillips, Reid Emery, Mitch Jeske, Cody Snyder, Anthony Rider II, Steve King and Nick Foss.