One of Hamilton County’s best high school coaches, Wes Skiles recently told his players that he’s stepping down at the end of this season.  That surprised a lot of people, because as you can see from the photo above, Wes is a young man.

Wes has been softball coach at Soddy-Daisy High for the past several years, and has enjoyed great success.  If he wanted to, he could stay on the field for the next few decades, and probably set some records that would be awfully hard to break.

But, like many coaches, the demands of the job started to encroach on his family time.  He and his wife Ashli have a beautiful daughter, Reese, who is about to enter middle school.  To his credit, Wes wants to spend more quality time with his daughter, and encourage her as she pursues her own athletic and academic career.  To that I say, “Good for you, Wes!”

I first met Wes on the phone.  Let me explain.  When my oldest son Chris was 10, he was already a veteran of Dixie Youth baseball in Red Bank.  For all those years, the coach was always another dad.  That’s just how it worked.  Who else would want to invest that much time into coaching a bunch of rowdy 10-year-olds?

So each spring, we would anxiously await the phone call from some coach/dad who would inform us that Chris had been selected for his team.  But on this spring night in 1998, the caller was not a dad.  It was a 19-year-old UTC student named Wes Skiles, who cheerfully introduced himself to me, and told me that he and his fraternity brothers would be coaching Chris’s 10-year-old team.

“Okay, ” I responded, without nearly as much enthusiasm as was coming from the other end of the phone.  “Cindy,” I said. “I have some information about Chris’s coach for this year, and you’re probably not going to like this.”

I broke the news to her that Chris’s coach wouldn’t be a comforting, fatherly presence like Coach Dave, or Coach Ronnie.  Instead, a bunch of frat boys would be leading my son’s team.  “Well,” we collectively sighed.  “I guess we have no choice.”

You’ve probably figured out by now, that Chris had a great year, maybe his favorite year in all of baseball, which he played for many years.  Wes and his frat brothers Billy and Jake were upbeat, energetic, and fun.  They knew the game, and they embraced the challenge.

When Chris learned that Wes was stepping down from coaching, he wrote, “in 1998, I played for Wes, and developed confidence as a 10-year-old pitcher —  thanks to Wes. In a world where many youth coaches take things way too seriously, Wes and his assistants Jake and Billy were patient, hilarious and fun. I hope Wes wins the State tournament, and I wish him the best in what comes next!

One of Wes’s former teachers, Patti Skates wrote, “So proud to have him represent Soddy Daisy but even prouder to have taught him in school. He is a fantastic coach, an awesome Dad, and a great citizen.”

It has been a pleasure getting to know Wes and his family for the past 18 years, and to watch him grow as a dad, a teacher and a coach.  I’m sure someday he’ll step back into the coaching ranks, because he’s so good at it.  For now, he’s taking a break to enjoy his family, which is obviously his priority.

I sure appreciate what he did for Chris and his teammates back in 1998, and what he did for me: I learned a lesson too.  I stereotyped him, and his fellow UTC students as (potentially) irresponsible kids who wouldn’t take coaching seriously.  I was wrong, and have enjoyed admitting it, and sharing that story ever since.  I wish every kid could have a coach like Wes Skiles.

From David Carroll's