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Retied chief relates football with life, name one of eight coaches in Illinois

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber Kelly-Woodward
  • 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
An Air Mobility Command headquarters Security Forces deployment manager was recognized as one of eight youth football coaches in Illinois throughout the 2008 National Football League season.

O'Fallon Little Panthers coach, Dave Mathis, was recognized by Casey's General Store and the St. Louis Rams Foundation for his commitment to youth football and the community and received a certificate, a football autographed by Rams head coach Jim Haslett and a $500 donation to the coach's youth football program from Casey's General Stores and the Rams Foundation.

"I was pretty ecstatic to find out I won," said Mr. Mathis, a retired chief master sergeant. "I was taken back because your own organization can't nominate you, other organizations have to. A team from Red Bud, Ill., nominated me and a team from Collinsville, Ill., seconded it."

The team Mr. Mathis was recognized for coaching was composed of children ages 5 and 6. Mr. Mathis, who has been coaching since 2000, also volunteers as the freshman head coach and varsity quarterback coach at O'Fallon Township High School.

"It's not about winning or losing," said Mr. Mathis, a Long Island, N.Y., native. "I remember one time my team won and they said they bet I was proud and I told them I was proud when they came out day after day in the summer heat and practiced and worked to come together as a team. What I really enjoy is when the kids finally understand, the light comes on and you see a big smile."

Coaching football for Mr. Mathis is more than just a game, he tries to incorporate life lessons throughout the season.

"One of the things I try to teach is that it's not about how you see it, but how people see you," said Mr. Mathis, who served 30 years in the Air Force. "Adversity happens, but if they throw helmets on the floor they will not step on the field until they apologize.'

"They can expect the same from me," continued Mr. Mathis. "If I call the wrong play, I will apologize to them."

Besides his team, Mr. Mathis also credits his wife for his success.

"The person who got me involved was my wife," said Mr. Mathis. "A guy she worked with asked if I would help. I gave it a shot and have been coaching ever since."

Mr. Mathis also relates football to the military.

"You've got to walk on the field like in life," said Mr. Mathis. "If you face challenges, walk away, just like in the military, walk away and be ready for battle."

Prior to his coaching career, Mr. Mathis played football during high school and even during his Air Force career through intramural sports on base.

"When playing a game, bad things are going to happen, but good things happen too," said Mr. Mathis. "You just have to hang in there."

Mr. Mathis added that he would like to continue coaching as long as he can.