SMDC employees coach players to lifelong successes
January 13, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Two U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command men lead their team to be champions on and off the field.
For 30 years, Donald M. Hodge, SMDC Directed Energy Directorate general engineer, has been the head coach for Huntsville's 8 and Under Metro Raiders football team. This year he was joined by Jason Bradshaw, G-6 information technology specialist, who now serves as an assistant coach.
Hodge played football, baseball and ran track throughout elementary and high school. He then went on to play running back at Alabama A&M University. As for Bradshaw, he was a catcher on his baseball team and also played tight end at Selma High School.
"I love this game," Hodge said. "It is important to me for my players to remember the fundamentals of the game. It is my wish that the foundation they are building at this age will prepare them for success in life.
"I take great pride in my role as their coach," he added. "I want the players to realize that others are counting on them to be the best they can be and take pride in what they do."
The team, which begins training camp in late July and plays other teams in Huntsville through the last week of October, has been named city champions 16 times. The team consists of inner city children who are 7 and 8 years old and normally wouldn't have an opportunity to play on a football team.
"I joined the coaching staff because I wanted to do something to give back to the community," Bradshaw said. "It was important to me to help develop young kids and give something back. Just seeing the kids grow from the beginning of the season, learn from the small things we teach them, and how they improve at the end of the season makes it worth all the time we spend with them."
Besides instilling football knowledge and discipline into the team, Hodge encourages the players to take part in other activities such as attend church service, watch high school football games and collect canned goods to donate for the needy.
"I consider this to be much more than football training," Hodge said. "This is life. Life can be a struggle, but they must take their place in this world and be a contribution to their team and their family. They will learn how to take pride in their contributions and not be upset or ashamed because they are not a star.
"I want the players to respect their parents and teachers, as well as have a good report card, and understand that there are consequences if they do not," he added. "If they do not give their best, they can expect less than the best results. I hope my players will always remember the 'Coach Hodge Motto,' 'Mind God, mind parents, do well in school, and you will be a winner.'"
Bradshaw talked about how the lessons Hodge and the rest of the coaches teach the team help them not only in football, but also in life.
"What makes the team special is that the coaching staff instills a lot of discipline, ethics and hard work into the players," Bradshaw said. "We give the boys a drive to succeed on and off the field and I am proud to play a part in that."
Hodge said his staff helps build the team's confidence and how that confidence helps the players throughout their lives.
"As coaches, we teach the fundamentals of blocking and tackling," Hodge said. "They know 'run right, run left, run up the middle' and it helps keep them focused. At their age, we stick to the basics and let them grow into the more complex things later. If you build a strong foundation, it is easier to add to that later."
A few of the young men Hodge has coached through the years are: Trevor Lacey, Mr. Alabama Basketball 2010 and 2011; the Butler High School state basketball championship team starting line-ups in 2008, 2009 and 2011; Kipchuno K. Hodge, Liberty Middle School P.E. teacher and football coach; Kenyon Hambrick, a starting wide receiver with Alabama A&M University; Wayne Makin, Mississippi State University and starting quarterback for three years and Rashad Moore, a graduate of University of Tennessee and player in the National Football League.
"God gave us a mission here on earth, and I found my mission 30 years ago by working in the community with these players," Hodge said. "My gift has been helping our young men grow up to be good role models for the next generation. I am proud of all of them, and I enjoy watching them as they grow up and become leaders in their communities."