As a Van Buren physical education and sports coach for 35 years, Mr. Masters doesn’t just want to teach his students different sports; he wants to help them become better people. He says one of his favorite things about teaching is helping his students learn how to do something they didn’t know before, and one of the main reasons he teaches is to help students become better people.
One of the best times of the year for him is Opening Knight because he gets to see everyone after two months, and see how they’ve all changed.
“I love to help someone who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, and help them do that. That’s the cool part about teaching. I don’t care who it is or what it is, but if they can do something when they leave here that they couldn’t do when they walked in, that’s pretty cool,” says Masters.
Thinking back on all of his 43 years of teaching, 35 at Van Buren and eight at a school in New Jersey, Mr. Masters says the thing he will miss most about teaching is the people, and miss helping them.
“It’s curious to me that people don’t say hi to people as they go by. I don’t want to regret sometime, someone walking by and that person’s having a bad day, and they really get depressed because I didn’t say hi to them. It’s the little things that make a difference.”
“This might be a cop-out answer, but I don’t know,” Mr. Masters admits about what he’s looking forward to in retirement. Taking some advice from his retired colleagues, Masters looks forward to an open schedule. “I said to my girlfriend, ‘I’m going to go to New Jersey, I’m going to go down to the shore, and I’m going to be on the beach every day doing nothing with my feet up on the little mound of sand I build. I’m just going to sit there everyday and look around.’”
Masters followed in his parents footsteps: both parents were teachers and his father, a coach. Although they tried to guide him in the direction of other professions, “I always kept going back to teaching, and then went I to Findlay College, I started to realize there’s more to being a phys. ed teacher, and a coach, than people realize,” says Masters. Though Mr. Masters loves being a phys. ed teacher and coach, he says he would’ve loved to also be a history teacher, an announcer on the radio or TV, or go on archaeological digs. In college, he had to learn every part of the body: every bone, every muscle, every vein, every ligament, and also learn which muscles help people do certain things, including “which muscles help you throw a ball, which muscles help you kick a ball,” he recounts. “And then you also had to learn first-aid. ”
Coaching is similar to teaching in the way that you’re always trying to be better than you were the year before; even though the objective to coaching is to make the students participating in it better people, your ultimate goal is to win. “The ultimate goal for teachers and coaches is to make these students better people. My philosophy is these things go hand-in-hand,” he says. “If you get the kids to act accordingly, they’re going to be successful.”
“I was the head football coach for 30 years, I was the assistant baseball coach in New Jersey, I’m now assistant baseball coach here, I was junior high basketball coach here, and I was the head baseball coach for two years,” he relays all of his coaching years, almost forgetting the last one. He says coaching football was his favorite, but baseball is a close second. While Mr. Masters loved coaching baseball he admits he appreciates football more, maybe because he coached football longer, or maybe because of the brotherhood that develops so deeply between the players.
Over the course of his high school years, Mr. Masters played football, baseball and basketball, along with playing baseball and football in college for a few years before having knee surgery his senior year, limiting his ability to play. After recovering from this surgery, Mr. Masters continued to play baseball for a while, but became the manager of Findlay College’s football team instead of playing.
There were obstacles for Mr. Masters becoming a physical education teacher. “When I was young, a rookie teacher, I had to learn how to organize the kids.” When he was still teaching in New Jersey, the gym also doubled as an auditorium, and one day they were setting up a stage for a play at one end, and it made Mr. Masters unable to do anything with his students. “There were two guys out on the floor throwing a ball back and forth, and I said please give me the ball. I walked back from one guy to the other several times asking for the ball before figuring out I wasn’t going to get it.”
“I don’t know if it’s an obstacle, but working with people.” Mr. Masters isn’t just talking about working and communicating with the students, but also with the parents. “It’s just one of the things you have to learn, and you can’t learn it unless you do it. When I came out here from New Jersey I had to learn the culture of the school. I had to learn how to work with people, and another obstacle for me was adjusting from teaching and coaching in New Jersey to teaching and coaching here.”After all of his years teaching and coaching, both here at Van Buren and back in New Jersey, Mr. Masters has always wanted to simply help his students along the right path in life. He says that as long as they can say “Mr. Masters helped me”, he believes he’s done the right thing.