Boots Garland: BR Coaching Legend
On January 11, 2016 an icon of Baton Rouge and Parkview Baptist passed into glory. If you were blessed during your high school years to be influenced by a special teacher or coach who you will never forget, then you know a little about what Boots Garland meant to us here at Parkview. From 1984 to 1988, I was blessed to have this man impact my life and to watch him impact the lives of my fellow classmates.
We lived in both fear and admiration of the man, and I just prayed that I was doing the right thing when he happened to come around the corner. He walked the halls, monitored the lunch room, and at times, used that big voice of his to get all of our attention and herd us into classrooms or where ever we were supposed to be. I remember lingering students would immediately go into random classrooms if he appeared upstairs and was in “a mood.” The teacher who would suddenly gain a “new” student would quietly understand and let you take refuge. A true picture of grace to poor freshmen!
For the guys, he taught us to be men. He was tough but fair. At least I think he was fair. I was usually too tired after the tough part to notice. He taught us to push ourselves in the right way. He could motivate you like no one I have known since. For many of us, he drove us to practice and even took us home. He found some old LSU track shoes so we would have shoes to run in. He was a celebrity and it was cool to see what new track or football star he had on campus to try and get them to the next level. He knew everyone, yet made the least of us feel important.
Most of all he was respected because if you really knew him, you knew that his love for you was bigger than his persona. He knew what it meant to laugh and you hung on every word he said. His quirky stutter added a special flavor to his stories and quips. Though I certainly feared him at times, I knew he had our backs and only wanted the best for all of us. He is the only person who could beat Chuck Norris at everything and then train him to be better. Anyone who went through a workout with him remembers to run five yards past the finish line. As we left Parkview one by one, each with our Coach Garland stories, we were trained to run five yards past any obstacle. We learned how to cross hurdles and to laugh at ourselves and with others.
After coming back to Parkview, one of the first people I looked up was Coach Garland. In Tommy’s Fish House over lunch, we reminisced about old times and how Parkview was on the rise. I had a chance to thank him from all of us who endured his time at Parkview. It was pure joy and it was the only lunch we would share. I thanked him again and offered to pay. He quickly made an Ok sign with his fingers and did a little whistle noise that was to tell me to shut up and that he had it. As we walked to the car, I said goodbye and that he didn’t have to pay for it. His last words to me were, “Donnie, I have enough money to burn a wet dog.” We parted, as usual, with a smile.
Editor’s Note: Boots Garland was my coach, mentor, and friend. His loss is heart-breaking. We will write more about Boots next month. — Woody Jenkins