Youth Sports: Coach Brown earns national football honor
BY JANE DONAHUE For Sun-Times Media November 24, 2012 4:54PM
Coach Jim Brown (right), author of "More than a Game," said football is a vehicle for child development. With Brown is his friend Coach Lou Jerman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. | Submitted
Updated: November 27, 2012 7:02PM
Jim Brown, coach and president of St. Raphael Football in Naperville, was recently inducted into the American Youth Football League Hall of Fame. The longtime Naperville resident joins eight coaches from around the country who are being honored this year for their dedication and service to youth football programs.
“A long time ago, my dad said you should always try to give back more than you receive,” said Brown, 73. “What I have found over the years is that if you contribute to an organization, you get so much more than you give. This award is recognition of a lot of work and a lot of fun I have had coaching children.”
Brown began as a volunteer coach for St. Raphael Football 43 years ago, and since 1977, he has been at the helm of the league. They currently serve more than 2,000 youth athletes each year.
“I think the key thing is we manage the culture of St. Raphael’s,” he said. “The culture is defined from a decision-making standpoint; we act from our values, and one of our key values is that we make all of our decisions in the best interest of the children.”
With a “kids-first” mantra, he said decision-making is simple.
“We ask which one of these alternatives is in the best interest of our children? It points you in the right direction,” said Brown, who oversees more than 100 teams and 700 volunteer coaches. “Implementation can be a little rough, but the choice is clear.”
Brown said football is a vehicle for developing kids, and he is grateful to have been part of what many call “a Naperville institution.”
“It’s hard to be raising kids nowadays,” said the coach. “There is a war going on for the hearts and minds of children. You have to make your contribution in that fight.”
And he has. In the more than four decades as a volunteer coach, thousands of Naperville kids have benefited from being part of St. Raphael Football.
“I am very proud of it and I feel good about it because of the way the program operates,” Brown said. “You look at all of those high school teams, and they have kids from St. Raphael Football. We have kids who played on our teams that come back to coach.”
Pat New is one of them. The Benet Academy varsity football coach grew up playing for St. Raphael’s program, and got his initial coaching opportunity alongside Brown.
“My very first coaching job was when I joined Mr. Brown’s staff for St. Raphael’s (seventh- and eighth-grade) traveling team my first year out of college,” said New, who just wrapped up his third season with the Redwings. “What I learned is that I absolutely loved the profession of coaching football.”
New said he learned coaching lessons he employs today.
“He taught me about having respect for players; he is never one to demean or humiliate players but believes in developing a sense of self-motivation and mutual respect,” said New. “Another thing I’ve learned from him is accountability as a coach. Did I coach this player well enough? Did I prepare him? I think coaches need to always look within and examine how they can communicate and teach more effectively.”
Brown will take part in the 2012 American Youth Football League Hall of Fame induction ceremony next month in Orlando, Fla.