Life’s success not measured in wins

Published 7:03 am Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“We just can’t seem to win the big one.”

I will forever remember that one sentence as long as I draw a breath. It was spoken by Hertford County High School football coach Daryl Allen to his wife, Katherine, as he stood on the field at Thomasville High School, the scene of a narrow 13-10 loss in the 1988 NCHSAA state championship game.

I stood there waiting to interview Coach Allen, feeling sad for such a great man who had orchestrated another in a career chocked full outstanding seasons (the Bears were 14-0 heading into the 1988 finale), but yet another state title had slipped from his grasp.

There were three other state title losses prior to that season: 1974, 1979 and 1986…all while coaching Ahoskie High School. How could one man be so unlucky?

“The hardest part is getting to this one game,” Allen said on that night in Thomasville. “These young men have nothing to be ashamed of. They worked hard, they played hard. There are hundreds of other teams that didn’t reach this stage of the season. We are grateful for the opportunity to compete for a state championship.”

What other questions could I ask….what other words could have Coach Allen chosen to say that would have topped that?

What I failed to hear, on that night in Thomasville, or during those three other state championship losses, is what Coach Allen was really saying. He was teaching a lesson of life. Sure, we can have talent that will take us far, and we can hone those highly developed skills to a sharp, competitive edge. But, as in life as it is in football, there are times where despite giving it 110 percent of your very best effort, you wind up second best. Coach Allen found nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact he felt it made you better…planting a seed that would bear bountiful fruit later in life.

We lost Daryl Allen last week at the age of 76. Some will argue that he ranks among the best coaches ever in the history of North Carolina high school football…..his 306 career wins can back up that fact. On the other side there are a handful of doubters, those who judge your worth by the number of championship rings on your fingers. I feel sorry for those who believe that as you have apparently missed out on some valuable lessons of life.

While I have no doubts of the vast knowledge Coach Allen possessed of the game, I say we lost a giant of a man, not just a great coach.

I never played a snap for Coach Allen; he never taught me in a classroom. But he was my teacher just the same. I learned a lot about how to be a better football writer because of him because he took the time to explain to me some of the game’s finer points.

I also learned how to accept defeat with poise and dignity from Coach Allen. I learned how to not be a quitter when the chips were down. And I learned that no matter how old you are and how much knowledge you think you possess, you never stop learning and all you have to do to learn more is just simply taking the time to listen.

Coach Allen’s football knowledge was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. So were his lessons in life that he freely shared with me, the thousands of student-athletes that played for him, and members of his church family and community.

Rest in Peace, Daryl Allen….your “winning” work here is done.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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