Nixa High School football coach Richard Rehagen

Nixa High School football coach Richard Rehagen (far right) announced his pending retirement at the conclusion of the Eagles' 2019 season.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” goes the old saying.

How much should the parent lean on the surrounding villagers in a child’s formidable years? It depends on the child, their needs, and who is available in the village to lend a hand.

In Nixa, one of those villagers is hanging up his whistle and the floppy bucket hat that protected him from sunburns for many a hot summer practice. Richard Rehagen spent 26 years coaching the Nixa High School football team. He spent 12 of those years as a head coach and 14 prior to that as an assistant. Many high school athletes form stronger bonds with their assistant coaches, who work with the athlete on a more individualized basis, so they get to know them better. 

The coaches who are great at it are the ones who take their influencing potential to heart. They are very intentional with the examples they set, the time they put into each practice or class and with the words they use in conversations with their students. They know firsthand of the gravity that their influence may have on young people, so they take their role in raising the child seriously.

Some coaches are more intentional than the parents of the kids they coach. In this golden age of helicopter parenting, we often see parents leave the hard parts of parenting up to someone else. They leave it to football coaches, teachers, principals, pastors, neighbors, volunteers and even the child’s peers to tackle the hard conversations. Some of the most formidable and dynamic moments in “parenting” occur outside the household. Sometimes that’s by accident or by coincidence, when an opportunity presents itself. Sadly, it sometimes happens because of a parent’s apathy.

Teachers and coaches don’t often get a choice about what their role will be in the village that raises a child.

A few blocks from Nixa High School, the Nixa Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals recognized the first “Top 10 Under 40.” There were three educators in that group, and whether they worked in K-12 education or not, all of the honorees agreed that mentorship played key parts in their development.

Not everyone can be a parent, but we are all part of the village. The role we take on in that village of mentorship is up to us.

Most school districts in Missouri have a man or woman like Richard Rehagen working for them, and I’m very glad that they do. However, as parenting trends change, apathy spreads and more child rearing responsibilities are thrust upon the village that raises the child, I worry that there may be fewer persons like Rehagen walking sidelines and setting examples in the future. It’s a lot of responsibility, and not everyone wants it. 

—Rance Burger

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