Just prior to the start of yesterday’s Oregon Football practice, Head Coach, Willie Taggart, opened up about the loss of his father last Thursday. He talked about how good it was to have time with him recently before he passed away and shared that his father told him how proud he was of him.
“I plan to continue to make him proud,” Taggart said.
Taggart smiled as he continued talking about his father and made it clear his father was intent on cheering on his son and his flock of Ducks.
“I know he will be up there watching on a 100-yard screen TV with HD, watching over us,” Taggart said. “He’s going to be proud and cheering the Ducks on.”
As Taggart headed down the practice field, I wondered how, and if, his demeanor would be different. Having lost a parent, I know first hand what those first weeks of grief feel like. I wondered if he would be solemn. I wondered if his “juice” would be understandably watered down.
As I watched from the sideline, my eyes often wandered in his direction. What I saw was both encouraging and telling.
Coach Taggart talks a lot about rising through adversity. He wants to make sure this team faces tough situations in practice and learns to come together to overcome the challenges- lessons that not only build strong players on the field, but strong men off the field. Taggart and his staff also talk about the importance of practicing what they teach and not asking the players to do what they, as coaches, don’t do.
Through the unfortunate loss of his father, it was hard not to notice Taggart was putting his words into action, even though he may not have even realized it.
The early morning practice was held under overcast skies and a much-welcomed cool breeze. Much of the beginning was spent running punt return plays while quarterbacks, led by Justin Herbert, could be seen in the background working on footwork. Punt Returners who fumbled the ball had to do some push-ups while Taggart stood right by. In between plays, Taggart joked around with the guys while bobbing his head to the upbeat, rap music blaring from the practice field speakers. Once they had completed their set, Taggart could be seen putting his arm around at least one of them, presumably imparting some constructive criticism. In short, he was in seemingly good spirits and engaged. More importantly though, he was present.
Anyone would have obviously understood if Taggart wasn’t himself. He would easily be given some space. Instead, Taggart seemed to show his team exactly how to persevere through adversity and he did it by being “together” with them.
“It’s tough,” Taggart said about the loss of his father. “It makes it easier when you are around the guys, around the players and having fun with those guys.”
It seems by leaning on the team, Taggart may just be showing exactly what they will need to do in the face of adversity sure to come.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl