I’ve compiled together a variety of the letters mom and I stumbled across in the attic written to dad, Elizabethtown College coach Ira Herr, by his athletes during WWII, with pictures, scrapbook clippings, newspaper articles and a wide variety of historical information from the time to paint a picture of what life must have been like for these small-town college men and women as not only their country went into war, but so did their friends and family. I hope you enjoy the following excerpt taken from Chapter One of Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII.
“Known in the campus family as “Coach,” Ira Herr covered all sports plus intramurals, physical education, and health classes, and thus he knew every student. Coach believed that sports had a definite role in the educations of the whole individual. In one of his talks he said, “Participation in competitive games is invaluable in training youth for life.” He believed that life itself was a struggle, with each individual competing with forces seen or unseen in his fight to better his position in life. “The keener the competition,” he would say, “the greater the value and the more satisfactory the victory.” He felt, however, that the win-at-all-costs approach was dangerous and would teach disregard for rules as well as lead to dishonest. He practiced what he preached and controlled his own behavior, never inciting either the players of the crowd to poor sportsmanship. Known for his low key, non-emotional style, Coach did have rules and insisted in his own quiet way that they be followed, as those caught smoking or missing games discovered. He cared about each player as a person, on and off the field. He helped with guidance, arranged financial aid, found jobs and just listened. What mattered most to him was that the students on campus would develop their own best selves—physically, mentally, morally, socially, and emotionally. He was “like a father.”
Coach defined his role as a politician, diplomat, psychologist, parent, teacher, trainer, weatherman, and sometimes laborer. A good coach, he would explain, “Dare not be an optimist and cannot afford to be a pessimist.”
When war came and Elizabethtown’s athletes went off to military or civilian public service, they wrote letters home to their coach, talking about the school, each other, and opportunities they had in sports. They talked about the war itself, but mostly they shared their lives and confided in him how being away from home affected them; they wrote about the decision they made and those that were made for them. They gloried in new skills; they chafed at waiting. They wanted to know how the teams were doing without them and how Coach and Mrs. Coach were getting along with their baby.”
As you continue in the book, you’ll meet the men and women athletes who wrote to my dad more intimately. Their journeys are ordinary ones but their connection to my father as a friend and mentor is something quite extraordinary. I can’t wait to share it with you. Thank you so much to Rundpinne for allowing me this opportunity!
I hope you have as enlightening of a time reading “Dear Coach” as I did writing it. Thank you again to Rundpinne for having me!
Follow the rest of Lois Herr’s virtual book tour by stopping by her official blog to see where she’s headed next!
I have not read Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII by Ira Herr, but I am enjoying the tour and look forward to obtaining a copy of the novel. * Standard disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any manner for posting about this tour.