EDWIN EVERS: It’s not just about fishing - Major League Fishing
EDWIN EVERS: It’s not just about fishing
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EDWIN EVERS: It’s not just about fishing

Image for EDWIN EVERS: It’s not just about fishing
Coaching high school fishing has proven to be just as beneficial for Edwin Evers as it has been for his students. Photo courtesy Edwin Evers
January 25, 2023 • Edwin Evers • Angler Columns

It’s been a while since I last put out a column. I’ve been busy, and I bet you’ve been busy, too. Life is like that.

One of the things that’s been filling up my time is coaching the fishing program at Oologah-Talala High School in Oklahoma. Brent Salt and I are the coaches, and we have 55 students on the team. If that sounds like a lot, it is – but it’s also a lot of fun and very rewarding.

For several years, I’d bump into high school kids around home or on the water and they’d ask me to help with a fishing club at their school. I’d explain that I was busy and on the road a lot, and I truly believed that my schedule would make it hard to participate.

But, coaching a high school fishing team was never very far from my thoughts. Whenever a young student mentioned it to me or I drove by the school, I thought about it. And something you probably don’t know about me finally caused me to take the plunge and start coaching.

I absolutely love coaching and teaching. I have always wanted to be a coach. In fact, if I weren’t a professional bass angler, I’d be teaching and coaching at the middle school level right now.

When I was a kid, the coaches I had for football, basketball, and track had an enormous impact on my life. They not only taught me the games, they also taught me a lot about life and gave me lessons that I use every day in my fishing, my business, and my personal relationships.

Now that I’m able to do some coaching at the middle school and high school level, I try to always keep in mind that it’s not just about the game and not just about fishing. It’s much bigger and broader and more important than that.

Edwin Evers helps coach the Oologah-Talala High School fishing club. Photo courtesy Edwin Evers

So, while we spend quite a bit of time practicing casting or learning good knot-tying habits, we also bring in fishing industry professionals to talk about the business of the sport. And, at each session we get the kids up in front of the rest of the team to make a presentation that we record and post online.

We want them to learn how to present themselves, to get over any fear they might have of speaking in public, and to gain confidence. That stuff is important whether you want to be a bass pro, a police officer, a sports coach, a businessperson, or almost anything else.

We have casting competitions, too, and we give away prizes — rods or reels or lures — and the kids love that, of course; but I think they’re getting a lot more out of our meetings because there’s a lot more to be gained. The key is to add all the extra life lessons while connecting them to the thing that hooked the kids in the first place — fishing.

The rewards of coaching

The irony is that teaching fishing at the middle school and high school level has done the very same thing for me. My career as a bass pro is what got me connected to these young people — fishing was the “hook.” But, what has kept me hooked and connected has been my passion for coaching and working with young people. This fishing club is giving me a chance to satisfy my need to coach and mentor.

So, it’s not just about fishing … not even for me. In fact, I wonder if the kids get as much out of our sessions as I do. If they are — and I think they are — they’ll reap the rewards for decades to come and longer after Coach Salt and I are gone.

Are you a coach or mentor looking for students? I bet many of you are, and I’d like to challenge you — right now — to consider that. It’s a chance for you to get involved with young people at a time when they probably need it more than ever. It’s a chance to teach fishing and life. It’s an opportunity to share skills and life lessons that go far beyond fishing.

And you don’t need a bunch of trophies to do it — just some good basic skills and a desire to help. In fact, the trick is often to hold back a little. Most of these kids aren’t ready for a lesson on forward-facing sonar. They need to work on knot-tying and casting. They must crawl before they walk or run. But, they also need a better understanding of how the world works and some confidence in themselves so they’ll find their place in it.

Because it’s not just about fishing.