After 40-plus years as an educator, ‘Coach’ Young still provides hope, inspiration to students

dfwnewsa | February 22, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

After 40-plus years as an educator, ‘Coach’ Young still provides hope, inspiration to students

Robert “Coach” Young stands in front of the logo at Rocketship’s Dennis Dunkins Elementary on Feb. 9, 2024. Young came out of a brief retirement to work at the school. (Matthew Sgroi | Fort Worth Report)
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At Mansfield High School 23 years ago, Robert “Coach” Young was one of three black staff members. As a football coach, track coach and history teacher, he did it all, he said.

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Just a few years ago, Young was sitting at home in Rendon with not much to do but think about the distant past. 

 He’s never been one to sit still idling, he said, and it grabbed hold of him. He thought about his days in the weight room and his hours spent on the football field. But the feeling that trumped all was when he thought about his days as an educator.

For more than 40 years, he woke up every morning excited to stand as a positive role model for thousands of students, he said. Soon after Young “retired,” he realized he craved that responsibility just a little longer. 

Now, he’s at Rocketship’s Dennis Dunkins Elementary, in the Poly neighborhood of Fort Worth, as an operations specialist, providing hope to students and giving them someone to look up to.

“I just want to have an impact on young kids,” Young said. “It’s not an easy job dealing with students, trying to ensure they can see what’s right and what’s wrong.”

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His role transcends the boundaries of sports and academics, he said. His journey has been enriched with lessons of perseverance, hope and the importance of representation. 

“It’s all about teaching, building real rapport with students,” Young said. “They don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.”

That philosophy has guided his approach his whole career, he said, starting in 1982. 

“I was still young,” Young said. “My last name is Young, of course, but I was young. I was 27, 28 — a lot of the other coaches were a lot older than me.”

He used that to connect with students, like Rocketship Superintendent SaJade Miller, who was one of Young’s students at Mansfield High School.

“There’s a certain confidence that one has, particularly being in a space where they feel ‘othered,’” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s just about being there and being a presence. Being a young Black man who’s discovering the world, like Coach Young was.”

Young was a quiet man, Miller said, and Young wouldn’t disagree. But he is loudly dedicated to student success, Miller said.

Young taught history in classrooms throughout the Fort Worth and Mansfield ISDs, including at Dunbar High School, all while coaching football and track. 

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“You can’t be what you have never seen,” Miller said of the role model Young became for students. “Whether he’s in the classroom or coaching, there’s someone to count on.”

Today, Young provides that same sense of belonging to students at Dennis Dunkins. He felt called out of his brief retirement to do so.

“The most important things are showing the students that there’s hope and teaching them discipline,” Young said. “I’ve seen the changes in schools over the years, and generations, too, and these kids need both.”

Some students, Miller said, need a soft-spoken figure in their lives, like Young, to teach them those lessons. 

72% of Dennis Dunkins Elementary’s students are Black. 

“We shouldn’t take for granted the impact that strong African American role models have on African American male students,” Miller said. “But equally as important is the impact they have on non-African American students to break those preconceived notions.”

Young never saw himself as having that responsibility. He just doesn’t look at his job that way, he said.

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“It just happens in time,” Young said. “I’m going to give every kid an opportunity to be successful, whether they’re quiet or not.”

That’s what he brings to Dennis Dunkins Elementary as he walks the hallways, carrying cones for the pickup line or rushing to fix a lightbulb.

His job description may no longer entail teaching history or coaching football — that part of  his past is retired for good — but his favorite parts of the day still involve interacting with Dennis Dunkins students. 

“It’s never about me,” Young said. “When you go to the cemetery and see somebody’s tombstone, those numbers don’t mean anything. That dash is the most important thing. What happened in between those times?”

Matthew Sgroi is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org or @MatthewSgroi1 on X, formerly known as Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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