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A Life-Changing Cycle

Coach Radigan knows each game is an opportunity to impact a life

“I am somebody. I am loved. I am valued. I am accepted.”

This chant can be heard from students at the first bell of any of Coach Malach Radigan’s classes. Both a teacher and the head coach of the football team, Coach Radigan focuses on building character in the classroom and on the field. But when he started high school, he never would have guessed that this was where he would end up.

It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that Coach Radigan realized that he was on the wrong track.

“I was a punk kid. I was heading down the same path as both of my older brothers, which ultimately led them to prison. And so that was kind of who I was. Well, when I got to high school and it was really bad, I built a relationship with one of [my coaches],” Coach Radigan said. “He invited me out to Fellowship of Christian Athletes my sophomore year and it literally changed my life. Flipped my life right side up. And on top of that, we had a brand new football coach coming to the program at that time. And so those two combined became like mentors slash father figures in my life. And I knew from that time that they had influenced my life, and that I wanted to do what they did.”

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Coach Radigan was inspired by his coaches and decided that he wanted to continue what they had set into motion.

“If I can impact one life the way that they’ve impacted mine, it would be worth it,” Coach Radigan said. “So really, the desire to become a teacher and a coach is because of those two having great influence in my life.”

His experience with life-changing coaches has caused Coach Radigan to set high standards for himself as a coach. For him, the goal isn’t just to make better players, but better people.

“If a kid walks through our program for four years and does not come out a better man, we failed,” Coach Radigan said. “We failed as a program, we failed those parents, those adults that trust us with their kids. Because at the end of the day, we want to use the platform of high school football to change the world.”

It’s one thing to talk about football building character, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Coach Radigan and his coaching staff must be deliberate with how they build character in their players.

“We set out from the very beginning to help change culture and build something special [with our] three core values. Servant leadership, relentless effort, and love,” Coach Radigan said. “Those will never change. That’s who we are going to be and it’s one of our program standards.”

Coach Radigan uses multiple strategies to implement these standards. He believes that a good way to emphasize the importance of the program’s core values is by pointing out the players that demonstrate them.

“We highlight kids for being servant leaders. We highlight kids for being relentless in their effort. We highlight kids that show love. Across the board, we highlight kids that demonstrate [the] standards that we create in our offseason,” Coach Radigan said. “Athletic praise will always happen. You’re gonna have a player of the game, you’re gonna have a kid who’s making big stats and getting these really cool accolades as an athlete, but what we control in the program is highlighting those [core values] I mentioned before.”

Senior Aidan Faszold has played football for eleven years, but until he began playing for Coach Radigan, he had never felt a team-first mentality this strong.

“It’s always get 1 percent better in everything you do, but even if you have a rough day, build other people up, then build yourself up,” Faszold said. “I’ve played for other teams and I’ve never [had] that much of a bond with other players like I do [with] this team. And Radigan definitely builds that.”

Although highlighting players who demonstrate the core values helps to set the standard for the football program, Coach Radigan thinks the most important part is that he and the rest of the coaching staff model the behavior that they expect.

“I just truly believe in the impact that it makes. Going back to why I became a teacher and a coach, those two guys taught me how to be a young man,” Coach Radigan said. “They taught me responsibility. They taught me what loving your brother looks like. They taught me what taking ownership looks like. They taught me so much through just living life with them. That’s what we want to see happen as well.”

During the games, it can be hard for Coach Radigan to model the behavior that he expects from his players. He knows that it is imperative that he demonstrate the program’s core values, but in the heat of the game, he sometimes finds himself caught up in the moment.

“I would love to say I coach to honor God, because I do. But I know that there are times where I find my identity in wins and losses. And that’s a struggle, but it’s a beautiful struggle that I’m still gonna grow through,” Coach Radigan said. “We will all fall short. For instance, against [Fort Zumwalt] South I was so in my flesh. I was so worried about the win that I mistreated kids on Friday. I yelled at a kid for messing up when I knew he didn’t intentionally mess up. I didn’t coach from a loving standpoint. And so I think that’s going to be a battle for the rest of my life.”

It’s a difficult balance to strike. How does a coach choose between a competitive spirit and a loving one? Although Coach Radigan tries to be even-keeled during games, he’s discovered that the most important thing is understanding where his value as a coach comes from – the impact he has on each player’s life.

“I have to realize that my value and worth can’t come from wins and losses the same way I tell our kids your value and worth can’t come from wins and losses,” Coach Radigan said. “There’s a competitor inside me that does want to win and build something special. But I know every single game – win, lose, or draw – is an opportunity to impact a life. To teach a lesson and love a kid.”

Faszold believes that Coach Radigan balances this perfectly.

“He’ll joke around and everything, but when it’s time to get serious he will. He’ll help everybody when they make mistakes and improve them all,” Faszold said. “He’s serious when he needs to be, but he’s also loving [toward] everybody on the team. He loves everybody like he loves his own son.”

This story was originally published on FHC Today on October 9, 2023.