Robert Reed Publishers
COACH THE SOUL by Ken LaVigne
Today’s children, especially teenagers, live in a world that is much different than the one that existed just twenty years ago. A drastically changed family dynamic and the advent of social media have forced young people to grow up in a more fragile environment, one without the stability they need and with the constant pressure of scrutiny from peers and others they don’t even know. The effects of these factors have led to suicide becoming the second leading cause of death in teenagers in America! Circumstance has deprived these kids of the stability and perspective that they so desperately need. This is a crossroads moment.
Coach the Soul is the first book that addresses these issues with real answers. It was born in Ken LaVigne’s classroom and on the football field during over thirty years as a high school teacher and coach. Its epiphany is just as unexpected as the dire circumstances in the lives of so many students. Coach the Soul sheds light on what today’s young people really need.
In the 47 chapters in Coach the Soul, Ken LaVigne describes poignantly his experiences working directly with high school kids both on the football field and in the classroom. He created a program for working with high-risk kids called the OASIS program. Kids who do well then later mentor new kids in the program.
FROM Coach the Soul’s INTRODUCTION:
“In working with my at-risk students, I am reminded of my own youth, of times that I came so close to listening to the wrong people and going down a different, dark path. What saved me were not the beautifully designed lessons given to me by outstanding teachers. Before embracing those lessons, I had to get myself right…..from the inside out. No, what saved me were the teachers and coaches who reached deep into my soul to give me a sense of identity and a reason to try. These great people armed me with the core values that eventually directed my life. From them, I learned to look beyond the particular moment, day, or week in which I found myself. I came to realize the value of patience and the need for sacrifice to achieve my goals. The fact that I even created goals and worked toward them would never have been possible without the intervention of some amazing teachers and coaches.
"I'm fortunate! I was once just like so many of my students. What literally saved me were my teachers and coaches who taught me the invaluable lessons of life. These lessons transcended all the challenges I faced as a student and person. These saviors were simply people with a clear vision and the unselfish, dedicated desire to share these lessons with me. They have made all the difference in my life. They taught my mind, developed my skills, but most importantly, they coached my soul.
"Sitting with my students and listening to their heartbreaking stories of drug-addicted parents, betrayal, insecure homes, self-doubt, and indifference of others in their lives led me to the realization that we all need certain things to be happy, caring, successful people. These are the same things that young people have always needed. Love, structure, and support, the pillars that led to my life’s transformation, are also powerful tools in turning around the lives of my students. The stories of these extraordinary teenagers that I share in this book are evidence that these are the things we all truly need to move forward in life with peace and a sense of purpose."
“Coach Ken LaVigne is a teacher with soul. He is one of the best educators you’ll ever meet. He looks deep inside his students to search for their unique and beautiful potential. Pushing past tragedy and the terrible choices young people can make: violence, drug use, family chaos, poverty, and despair, he goes to work gently, persistently, passionately pulling the best out of the young men and women he teaches.
“They say that for children to make it, they just need one person, one person in their lives who believes in them, who won’t ever give up, and who makes the journey with them to ensure they make it. For hundreds, if not thousands of kids, Coach LaVigne is that person. This book will show you why.” ~ Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 National Teacher of the Year
"Ken LaVigne is a truly remarkable educator, and his passion and expertise shines brightly in Coach the Soul. His stories, reflections, and advice will make you a better teacher, and a more complete human being. There is wisdom on every page." ~ Alex Kajitani, Speaker, Author & 2009 California State Teacher of the Year
“This is one of the most heart-wrenching and uplifting books I have ever read. I cried, my heart swelled with pride, and this book left me inspired. Not only can I see the quilt that his grandmother made in my mind’s eye, but also the quilt that he has created with the stories of his students and the many lives he has touched." ~ Helen Papadopoulos, 2007 California State Teacher of the Year
“Coach the Soul demonstrates how one man’s—one educator’s—personal commitment to the success of every single student to both endure and prevail can happen through embracing the core values of the human soul.” ~ Karen Lantz. Advanced Placement English Teacher, College and Career Advisor, La Serna High School
“The tapestry of stories in Coach the Soul positively influences the reader as teachers and mentors make the difference in the lives of so many. The heartfelt honesty and life stories are candid and express the wonderful spirit of humankind. I have worked with author Ken LaVigne for over twenty-five years and his gift of storytelling is an absolute treasure.” ~ Dina Tsuyuki , English Teacher and Department Chair, La Serna High School
“Coach the Soul is a privilege and an honor to read. Knowing what it is like in that classroom with Mr. LaVigne, I understand how true these stories are. I am so grateful to know Ken LaVigne, to have learned from him, and to have been inspired by him. While reading this book, I don’t think my eyes stopped watering for even a second… Teaching is less about history and math, and much more about coaching the soul.” ~ Emily Brock, Two-Year OASIS Academic Mentor, La Serna High School
“Coach Ken LaVigne is one of the individuals I admire most in this world. Over the years, he has inspired me to be a better man and coach. He has a special gift of making people feel good about themselves. Coach the Soul paints an incredible picture of the life of a great man who has inspired so many. ~ Andy George, Head Varsity Football Coach, Teacher, La Serna High School
“Ken LaVigne is as rare of a person that you will ever meet. This book is a must-read for anyone and will inspire those looking to make a difference in the lives of America’s youth.” ~ Dave Pierson, Head Varsity Football Coach, Teacher, Santa Fe High School
“Coach the Soul takes you on a journey inside the heart of what it is to be a great teacher. Ken LaVigne’s passion and commitment to students who have given up on themselves is a testament to the power of unconditional love.” ~ Martin Plourde, Superintendent, Whittier Union High School District
“Ken LaVigne and the student mentors that he trains are bridge builders who repair human souls. This book will open eyes and hearts alike to the journey that so many of our young people today are forced to make.” ~ Lisa Barnes, Intervention Specialist, La Serna High School
“I have known Coach LaVigne since 1997 when he arrived at La Serna. He was my son Stephen's head coach and line coach for the varsity football team. At the beginning of the season, Stephen came home from practice with his game jersey. It was number 55. Stephen had played football for the past three years, two years with La Serna and a year in Pop Warner. His number was always 50, so I was upset Stephen was not given the number 50 now that he was starting on the varsity football team. I told Stephen I was going to go to the coach and get his number changed. Stephen told me to calm down and said that each year, Coach LaVigne secretly gives a lineman who he truly respects the number 55 because that was Coach's number. That player would be an extension of Coach LaVigne on the field. It is a sign of deep respect and trust. I spoke to Coach about this and he asked me if I would like to change Stephen's number. He said that it was my decision. That demonstrated to me the character of the man Coach Ken LaVigne. He is my brother from another mother. I love him.” ~ Claudine Sanchez-Parrott
“Ken or “Coach” as we loving call him, reminds us that we are all complicated human beings and it is through our real connections to one another that we all become better people. Coach the Soul is sure to inspire and quite possibly move you to impact the life of another.” ~ Ann Fitzgerald, Principal, La Serna High School
“These stories are told by a man who wears his huge heart on his sleeve, and teaches even the most at-risk students that it’s okay to do so as well.” ~ Kristin Kooiman, Former Student of Ken LaVigne, Assistant Principal, Curriculum, La Serna High School
“Their stories and the impact of Ken’s embrace will inspire you. As hope resonates throughout this book, you will sing Ken’s praises and feel determined that you, too, can make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable youth." ~ Rita Stevens, Assistant Principal, Guidance, La Serna High School
"Coach the Soul is a book that anyone can relate to and, without a doubt, is a must read for any educator, whether a seasoned veteran, first-year teacher, or anybody interested in learning to unconditionally love and show true compassion for their fellow man. It’s about love, empathy, and compassion; and Ken LaVigne delivers his stories and teachings without constraints. I can do nothing but sing praise after praise not only for this book, but for the man, my coach and mentor, Ken LaVigne. Bravo, bravo!" ~ Jimmy Hope, Former Student and Football Player, English Teacher, Whittier High School
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: KEN LAVIGNE
Ken LaVigne is a 2012 California State Teacher of the Year as well as a 2011 Los Angeles County and Whittier Union High School District Teacher of the Year. In 2012, he joined a contingent of California educators on a two-week tour of Japan, visiting schools and sharing educational practices with Japanese teachers, counselors, and administrators. For the past seven years, he has served on the five-member judging panel to select Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year. Ken has spoken at a variety of teacher conferences and has made presentations to schools and districts, sharing his experience and expertise in how to develop and run a program to change the life paths of at-risk students. During the past several years, hundreds of teachers, counselors, and administrators have visited his classroom to witness, first hand, how this process works. Many of these educators have developed similar programs at their own schools and have returned to La Serna to participate in the OASIS training program.
In 2007, after almost thirty years as a successful high school football coach, Ken decided to retire from coaching and focus all of his attention on teaching. Within days of his announcement to step down as coach, Martin Plourde, his then principal and now district superintendent, asked him to develop a program to help La Serna High School’s most at-risk students. Ken abandoned his plans to teach writing and literature to dive into this new challenge with the same intensity that he had as a coach and English teacher. He created a program called OASIS (Organized Academic Support In School) and recruited the finest students at La Serna to become academic mentors for their struggling classmates. Together, they created a program of support that is rooted in the application of core values that lead to success, not only in school, but in life. The result has been incredible with the great majority of these at-risk students graduating, continuing their education, and moving on to successful lives.