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Crestwood's Newman uses military and crisis background to help mold Knights

By TIM LEIBLE
tim@theitem.com
Posted 6/20/20

Lance Newman has been coaching at Crestwood for 13 years, currently serving as a defensive line coach. Over his years of coaching, he's learned the important role that coaches can play in the lives of student-athletes on and off the field. Newman …

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Crestwood's Newman uses military and crisis background to help mold Knights

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Lance Newman has been coaching at Crestwood for 13 years, currently serving as a defensive line coach. Over his years of coaching, he's learned the important role that coaches can play in the lives of student-athletes on and off the field. Newman estimates that a majority of his student-athletes don't have a father figure at home, so they have to turn to coaches or teachers.

"Around the United States coaches end up being the surrogate fathers for a lot of kids," said Newman. Unfortunately, we've got a lot of single parents out there."

Newman said the role of father figure begins with simply listening to kids. Athletes come from all different backgrounds, so he wants to be sure to get to know how to best work with each one.

"Treating the kids like they want to be treated," said Newman on how he builds relationships with his players. "My coaching style is not the yelling and hollering to get to kids. I listen to them because many kids come to the field with a whole lot of issues from home for all different sports, male or female. A lot of kids use sports to break away from the norms of stress at home. I try to come to them from a spiritual standpoint, that's how me and the kids normally get a good understanding."

Newman developed this coaching style after spending 22 years in the Marines, while also spending time working as a mental health professional. Newman focuses heavily on his players' lives off the field, because he knows how important it is to their development in both football and life.

"I spent 22 years in the United States Marine Corps and we are all about the mission, all services are," said Newman. "In that mission, if people don't buy into what you're trying to do, the mission won't be completed, so when it comes down to the aspect of football or a person's life, if they have a healthy mind, they're going to have a healthy attitude.

"I know a lot of times the key to being a coach is actually listening to the kids, because everyone has different learning types. Some people gotta see it, some people gotta do it and touch it, and some people you tell them one time and they get it down. So I know if we establish that, we can help the youth a lot better."

Talking about mental health with boys that are growing into men isn't easy. Men are often taught that emotions are a weakness, but that's something Newman is working to help his athletes grow past.

"I recall a story a few seasons ago where one of our kids was cutting (class). I looked at his arm, and I'm familiar with it based on the work that I do, and I come to find out that the kid had a host of issues that's there," said Newman. "I let him know he was in a safe place. I keep things to myself, but I try to make sure I help them. But it's a no deal when you're hungry, when you have suicide ideation or you are manic depressive then I have to tell somebody else, because there's things I just can't do.

"I have a lot of relationships with kids that call me and I've gotten calls at 2:30 in the morning, I've gotten out of bed and gone to people's houses when they had issues with their parents," said Newman. "Giving them a place to let them know that it's OK to share their feelings, to voice what they feel and things like that. With all the social unrest that's going on right now, I've had a few kids call me, and we just talked about it because they didn't totally understand. They were angry, they were upset and they pretty much tell me everything.

Newman has an open door policy with his players and sometimes that isn't just his office door. Newman has had students live with him over the years, whether it be for a weekend or as long as six months, because he knows how important it is to have a safe place.

"Over the last 13 years I've had a few kids live with me off and on based on what was going on at home and the fact that I talked to their parents and they stayed with me, whether it was for a weekend or I had kids stay with me for about six months," said Newman. "Me and my wife (Cecilia) just try to do our part to help a lot of kids."

These relationships are now more important than ever. As a black coach with predominantly black athletes, there are a lot of conversations to be had as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow. Newman wants to make sure his kids are informed by more than what they see on social media.

"It's very important because kids are getting information based off of social media and it's not always correct," said Newman. "Kids are getting wrong information and it concerns me a lot, because if there's no one there to correct it, it gets set in their mind and it becomes gospel for lack of a better word. That concerns me, but it also concerns me with COVID(-19 virus) that we aren't in the kids' lives like we would be. We would be in the middle of the preseason right now, and we would be seeing the kids, getting to know them, finding out idiosyncrasies, what they're good at, what they're bad at. I miss that time right now.

"It's very important that we keep them grounded and we explain to them what's actually going on," he added. "I honestly don't understand everything that's going on, I don't, but I try to explain to them the importance of getting involved and making a difference and also that their vote counts."

The coronavirus pandemic has added stress to coaches across the country because they are missing out on bonding with their athletes on top of losing valuable time on the field. Crestwood tries to keep those relationships alive with constant communication.

"What (head) Coach (Roosevelt) Nelson has set up for us is that each position coach has their kids in a list of names and numbers and we pretty much call just to check in on them, find out if there's any needs, anything that they may have an issue with," said Newman. "We talk to them about how they're working out and we just basically find out how they're doing, if they're doing their work online, how well they're doing it."

Newman was quick to point out that he is far from the only coach to hold this role in the lives of athletes.

"The teachers and the coaches, I'm speaking specifically throughout Sumter, they play a major role," said the Crestwood coach. "There is so much done that people don't know nothing about that they do for the kids here in Sumter. There are teachers that go above and beyond like you wouldn't believe."

With all that's going on in the world right now, Newman is just looking forward to seeing his athletes again as soon as Sumter School District allows it.

"I look forward to it. I pray we can get back and it'll be safe," said Newman. "The numbers (of positive coronavirus tests) are growing here in South Carolina, so that concerns me. It all concerns me, but I hope we can get back to what we do and help the kids."