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As the 8-year-old boy jumped to start running through the shuffle drill for the second time, his 40-year-old coach slipped in to race him.
"You going to let an old man beat you," the coach yells with a smile as the boy giggles and reaches for a little extra speed.
"That's it! That's it!" the coach yells before turning back to challenge the next runner.
The best youth team coaches always seem to be having as much fun practicing as their players. Maybe more accurately, their players are having fun because the coach is making it fun. Then there are lots of giggles as players work harder than they realize.
Football was always fun for Courtney Davis. In 1992, he was one of the leaders for Snider's Class 5A state championship team, rushing for 198 yards against Ben Davis in a 24-21 win. After rushing for 2,449 yards, Davis finished third in the Mr. Football voting before starting for three years at Bowling Green where he rushed for 2,000 career yards.
Davis came back to Fort Wayne and works at Northcrest Elementary as a case manager, kind of a counselor without the license who helps students and their families solve problems. He's been rescuing kids for 11 years and loves the work.
But he didn't come back to football full-time until this season. Last year his son Makhi played for the Metro Youth Football League's Lions, but when Neal Simmons, general manager of Davis's old team the Omega Colts, asked if he'd be interested in coaching, Davis declined.
"I kept saying, 'No way, don't even think about it.' "
Except Davis wasn't fooling his wife Monchelle, who pointed out he had made it to every one of Makhi's practices. With younger brother Jordan coming along to play in two years, she said if Davis was going to be there every day, he might as well run the program.
Davis called some of his buddies, Willie Burton, Marques Hassel and Coliss Wallace, to pitch in as assistant coaches. They are trying to recapture the feeling they had when they played for the Colts for Archie Lunsey and Simmons.
"It's what he comes from and he remembers the importance of it," Simmons said. "Courtney was always special to me because he's humble. You wouldn't know the success he's had. He lets his actions speak for themselves. Even as a kid he did that. He's been a blessing."
The team's numbers are way down, but the kids who practice at McCormick Park are getting tougher and are improving. Davis and crew are concentrating on effort and technique.
"Just from the jamboree to the first game, I've seen guys go from not even knowing how to tackle to using good form," Davis said. "That's the kind of things I care about. Are they listening, are they working hard? If you are working hard for me and listening to me, I'll bet you are listening in the classroom, and I'm adamant about school."
From his calling as a caseworker, Davis knows reviving the Omega Colts has to be a long-term project. There is no quick-fix, though he admits he's always pushing for more and realizes two or three times a week he hears the bark of long-time Snider coach Russ Isaacs flying out of his own mouth.
"I'm a sole believer that there's a purpose in life, God has a reason for me to be here and this is where I'm supposed to be at," Davis said. "The league has given so much to me, I was honored to come back. I couldn't have planned it any better."
Besides, they are all having fun, and there's always another 8-year-old to challenge.