By Pfc. Eric ProvostFebruary 8, 2010
FORT POLK, La - If the U.S. Army does one thing better than anything else, it might be developing leaders. Leadership is easily noticeable wherever Soldiers don the Army's digital camouflage pattern; but even out of uniform, some Soldiers' leadership skills are unmistakably apparent.
Spc. Chris Marshall, a petroleum supply specialist with Company B, 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), takes the Army's lessons of leadership to heart, especially when mentoring children. He is a head coach of 13-to-14 year old basketball players on a team called the Spartans for Fort Polk's Child and Youth Services.
For four days a week - three practices during the week and games on Saturdays, Marshall spends his time out of uniform teaching children the game he loves. His dedication to leadership even comes through in the Spartan's motto - "Lead the Way."
"I'd say that's where about 60 percent of my personal time goes," said Marshall, talking about coaching his basketball team of 11 teenage boys. "I try to use what (experience) I have to teach the kids not just about basketball, I also try to use the game to teach them lessons about life."
Some area residents might remember Marshall as one of the CYS basketball coaches who led a Fort Polk team to first place in an East Texas shootaround competition just last summer. Not only is Marshall successful in competition, but also he works well with his off-duty 'troops' when offering guidance and instruction.
"I think he does a great job with the kids," said Beth Ramsey, mother of Justin Ramsey, one of the Spartans.
"He taught me how to slow down on the court," added William Anderson, one of the members from the summer-league team that won the East Texas competition. "He taught me how to think; how to run the offense."
Although he is only 23, Marshall already has six years of coaching experience under his belt. His passion for coaching began back when he was going to high school in McGee, Miss. During his junior year, Marshall began teaching youth basketball at the local YMCA.
After graduating high school, Marshall attended Alcorn State University for three years and played intramural basketball every year. Then he refocused on coaching when injuries kept him from continuing to compete as a player. In 2006, Marshall joined the Army Reserves before signing up for active duty in 2008.
Marshall is pursuing a college degree in Health Sciences and plans to make coaching basketball a full-time career; just as his three all-time favorite college coaches - Don Haskins, Bobby Knight and John Wooden. After his time with the Spartans and the Army is over, Marshall's love of basketball and desire to lead and mentor young players will still be unmistakably apparent - even without a digitally patterned Army uniform.
"I'll probably go to a high school to start off with. I'd eventually like to work my way up to coaching college though," said Marshall, who celebrates his one-year wedding anniversary this month with his wife Schkaylle, another CYS-registered coach.