Teacher & Coach, Owensboro High School
For many professionals, their office tells a lot about who they are. Whether it’s certificates and awards, family photos, or treasured memorabilia, the items displayed around someone’s desk can provide a window into their personality. Owensboro is full of interesting business people with interesting stories. “From the Desk Of…” gives those people’s clients, customers, family and friends an inside look at where they work and what makes them tick.
At Owensboro High School, Coach Rod Drake makes his office both in the classroom and on the court.
Most know Drake as a standout basketball player for the 1980 State Champion Red Devils, the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers, and as the head coach of the OHS boys’ basketball team. What many may not know is that for as long as he has been head basketball coach, Drake has also occupied a desk as a teacher in the EBD (Emotional & Behavioral Disorders) hall at the high school.
Though he had served as an assistant coach since 2002, Drake took both his current teaching job and the head coaching position in 2009. Over the years, including his time as a player, Drake has accumulated numerous awards and recognition in the world of basketball. In fact, he’s the only player in Kentucky basketball history to win a State Championship for the same school as a player (1980) and also as a coach (2015). And Drake has the hardware to prove it. All you have to do is step into the lobby at OHS, and it doesn’t take long to spot all of the trophies, plaques and other honors that Drake has amassed over the years. At the time that this issue went to print, the front lobby of Independence Bank’s main branch also housed a tribute to Coach Drake and his years of basketball achievement.
But even for all of the glory on the hardwood, Drake doesn’t focus on his individual achievements. He’s certainly a proud alumnus and representative of Owensboro High School, but you wouldn’t know about his basketball accolades if you stepped into his classroom. Rather than housing trophies and sports memorabilia, Drake’s classroom is focused on meeting the individualized needs of each of his students. “It’s a special education setting. Everybody learns differently, and these kids are the same way. It may not be the traditional way. We go about things differently, but the end justifies the means,” says Drake. With his students, one of the most important tools Drake employs is his sense of humor. On his approach to teaching EBD students, Drake says, “I try to use humor and keep everything on a positive note. The world is so stressful, and who knows where some of these kids came from the night before – some may not have stayed at home. So I always want it to be a fun thing.”
In addition to equipping his students with skills in the classroom, Drake also strives to provide them with the tools they need to succeed in life. And this is where his roles as coach and teacher most frequently intersect. Drake reflects, “At one time, I thought that coaching and teaching were very different — I thought you could be a better coach if you didn’t have to spend as much time in the classroom. But I realized that teaching has really helped my coaching game, because you learn to be patient. A lot of times as a coach, you don’t go through the proper steps. With teaching, you go through the fundamentals every day. And that’s what my coaching strategy is — we do the same things every day, but we get better as the year goes on. The classroom has helped me with recognizing that everybody’s ability is different, so that helps out as a coach, too.”
Another skill that Drake employs both in the classroom and on the court is the ability to make adjustments. When their team is down, a good coach knows how to alter the game plan to find a way to win. Similarly, Drake constantly finds himself making those changes with his students. “Every day you come in, and the kids are going to be different,” Drake says. “I teach eight kids in different grade levels, and while you have a general set of rules for everybody, my students are on individualized education plans.” This makes learning to adjust a must, and it’s a skill that’s brought Drake much success with both his students and players.
At the end of the day, Drake fully embraces his dual roles as teacher and coach. To end our conversation, Drake notes, “A lot of guys go in and punch the clock and do the same thing every day. In my field, every day is an adventure, and I’m excited to be here, especially being an alumnus. And I can say this: I’ve found something that’s challenging and also rewarding. I can see the results. This is something that I love to do. It’s not really a job to me, because I have fun doing this every day.”