Ryan Hill: Full Interview

This is the full transcript of my interview with Ryan Hill. The article, which will be linked once it’s posted, is for my monthly column at The Wilson Post. The column is titled “Millennials Making a Difference”, and highlights individuals from the Wilson County area who are having a positive impact on their communities.

How long have you been coaching? Was it something you always saw yourself doing? (And I pose the same questions regarding teaching as well)

I started coaching at MJHS in 2009 so this season will be my 9th coaching baseball here. My original goal was to play baseball as long as I could but when I got injured and lost 80% of the vision in my right eye right after high school I realized that playing was not an option anymore. I signed a baseball scholarship to Belmont but just went there for one semester before deciding to transfer to MTSU. While I was still in college at MTSU I helped coach two Little League teams and really enjoyed it. That was when I knew coaching was something I wanted to keep doing. I had great coaches from Little League through high school and that had an impact on me as well. I saw the positive effect those coaches had on my life and on others and I wanted to have the same impact on my players.

I have also been the head girls soccer coach and an assistant girls basketball coach at MJHS. I coached girls soccer for 4 years and girls basketball for two years. Now, I am just an assistant baseball coach. I never really saw myself coaching those two sports but I learned a lot and enjoyed coaching those sports as well.

I always knew teaching was an option. My mom is a teacher, my uncle was a teacher/principal, and my aunt just recently retired from being a school counselor (all in Wilson County). I guess being around it so much rubbed off on me. When I got to MTSU I took an entry level education course and really enjoyed it and decided I would follow in my mom’s footsteps and major in Business Education. I enjoy teaching every day and even if I was not coaching I would still be a teacher. I teach Economics, ACT Prep, and Personal Finance this year.

Teaching at Mt. Juliet High School is awesome. My mom and my wife both teach with me. My mom still teaches business classes and my wife teaches Algebra 2 and is the Cheer-leading coach. Mr. Brown is a great principal and leader for our school. He constantly pushes the teachers and students to be the best they can be whether it’s in academics, sports, band, art, music, etc. I enjoy coming to work every day. One of my cousins teaches at Gladeville Elementary and another cousin’s husband is a teacher/coach at Lavergne High School.

My dad also had a big impact on me. He is an accountant for O’Charley’s and he always stressed the importance of education and trying your hardest whether it was in school or playing sports. He was always there for my brother and I whether it was taking us to hit at night or traveling to all our games with my mom. He always stressed how important it was to always play hard no matter if you are winning or getting blown out in a game. That is something that definitely had a big impact on me when I played and it still has an impact on me as a teacher and a coach.

What similarities do you see between teaching and coaching? Any significant differences between the two?

One similarity is obviously dealing with teenagers. In both settings you get to teach whether it is in the classroom or on the field. I try to be relatable in both settings and get to know the kids. If you can build a relationship with a student/athlete they are much more likely to trust you and you are able to get more out of them.

When you see that light bulb go off in a student or an athlete that they finally learn a new concept that is a great feeling. Seeing students progress during a class is something I really enjoy.

With coaching you are able to develop deeper relationships since you are normally around the players for a longer period of time. If you have the player for four years you watch them grow up from their freshman through senior years. Even if you just coach them for one season you still spend a significant amount of time with them. We have workouts for baseball all throughout the school year so we typically see them every day from August through May. You learn which players can be pushed and which players you have to take a softer approach with. As a coach you have to figure out where players are best suited to help the team and who is going to give you the best chance to be successful.

In teaching you typically have a student for one semester and while you are able to have a big impact on them I don’t think it is quite as big of an impact as a coach can have because of the amount of time you spend with your players after school at workouts, practices, and games.

Are there any students or team members you’ve taught and/or coached that have had a particularly substantial impact on you?

A player who had a big impact on me was Carson McClure who graduated last Spring. He tried out his freshman, sophomore, and junior year and was cut each time. He tried out again as a senior and finally made the team. Before the season started we weren’t sure how much he would get to play but he went through every workout and practice and gave 100% at everything. He never complained and even when he didn’t get to play that much he still came to every practice and game and gave everything he had. By the end of the year he ended up starting for us and contributed a lot to our team. He could have very easily given up when he was cut as a freshman, sophomore, and junior but he always came back. He is one of the kids you really enjoy coaching because he always did everything he was asked and got the most out of his ability. He may not have had the best batting average or been the fastest guy on the team but I always knew he was giving 100% and he truly cared about the team more than himself.

In the classroom, the students who have the biggest impact on me are the ones who you can see growth in while they are in your class. This could be growth in terms of grades but it could also be growth in the maturity level of the student. Sometimes some students don’t think they can learn a particular concept or topic but when they finally do and they thank you for helping them learn that is an unbelievable feeling. Some of my most memorable students are the ones who maybe acted out in class but I was able to get through to them and show them they could learn and how they could apply things they have learned to real life especially in classes like Personal Finance and Economics.

Same as above, but in this case is there anyone that you know YOU have significantly impacted? If so, how?

One student who I had an impact on graduated a couple of years ago, Kyle. He acted out a lot in class and would try to cause disruptions but we eventually learned how to get along and a year after he was out of my class he wrote me a note apologizing for his behavior and he told me that he learned the most in my class because I taught them about real life stuff in Personal Finance. He said he was able to use a lot of the concepts he learned in real life. He said he wished he had paid even more attention because he could now see how important those things were that we talked about in class. He even came to see me one day during school after he graduated and that made my day.

When former students come back to see you or even to just say hi that makes your day as a teacher. When you get to ask them how they are doing and what they are doing now it is a great feeling to realize that you made an impact on them even if it was a small one.

I hope I have impacted all my former players in some way. One way I know I have had an impact is when former players text me or contact me to let me know about something going on in their life like college or work. When a former player contacts me or comes up to a game or practice and you get to catch up with them and just talk you know you had an impact on them.

What is your favorite thing about teaching? Coaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is trying to prepare students for the real world. In Economics or Personal Finance we get to talk about things that will affect them in life outside of school like money or decision making. Getting to be around high school kids all day is definitely interesting and no two days are ever the same. I get to laugh a lot in class and I try to keep a relaxed atmosphere where students aren’t afraid to ask questions or have discussions about different topics. I try to make the topics relatable to them and let them see how what they are learning can be used outside of school.

In coaching, my favorite part is getting to be around the players and watch them get better. The games are fun and when you get to see a kid get a big hit or make a great play or get a big strikeout there is nothing better than that.

I’m lucky I still get to be involved in competitive sports even though I am not playing anymore. Coaching has allowed me to stay involved in a sport I played and loved from age 5-18. There is nothing like the feeling you get after a big win when you know how hard the players have worked and you get to see their hard work pay off.

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