Putting things into perspective has been the bulk of Ryan Bishop's work this year. The COVID-19 pandemic alone has brought a new light on how something simple, like playing a football game, can be.
Then just over a week ago, tragedy struck in Boulder. The Kings Soopers shooting caught national attention but it was the Boulder community that has been rocked to its core. Somewhere in the midst of all this, the Boulder Panthers had to prepare for a football game.
They took the field for their season opener on March 29 and beat Mountain Range 24-14. For the kids, it was an emotional roller coaster in which they felt pain, grief and joy all in the span of 48 minutes of regulation.
After getting perhaps the most emotional win any team this year has experienced, Bishop has been named the Denver Broncos High School Coach of the Week.
The Broncos High School Coach of the Week is selected in partnership with CHSAA and the Broncos. Find a complete list of winners on this page.
Ryan Bishop bio
Years as head coach: 3 (8-13)
Years at Boulder: 3 (1-0 this season)
Previous stops: Pomona assistant (2005-06); Columbine assistant (2007); Boulder assistant (2008-14, 2017); Boulder head coach (2018-present).
Question: Why do you coach?
Bishop: For the love of the game and to teach these young men just how important it is through the life lessons that athletics teaches us.
Q: Why do you coach the way that you coach?
Bishop: It stems from my coaches starting with my dad who's been a coach for 30 plus years. Then it goes to my college coaches that were great role models and inspirations. I kind of consider myself the younger, old school coach. Love them up while you're yelling at them. Once they know you care, they're going to play hard for you. And no matter what your coaching style is, they're going to accept it.
Q: What do you think it's like from your players' perspective to be coached by you?
Bishop: When we're on the field, I think they think I'm a little bit crazy, that at times the apple has fallen very far from the sanity tree. At the end of the day, as soon as we walk off that field, they know they can call me anytime, they can text me anytime, we can talk about anything and they know no matter what, I have their backs. Even if they don't like it at that moment, they'll understand it. So I tell them all the time, you'll understand why we do what we do and the way that we do things 10 years from now.
Q: We are asking kids to be unreasonably resilient in the last year. How resilient did you find your kids being not only after starting a spring football season and all the emotions that went into that, but especially after what happened in Boulder last week?
Bishop: To be honest, they put things into perspective for me. The level of resiliency that they have and determination and desire and want to and their integrity, it makes you take a step back and look at what you're doing and not so much looking at the record that I have, but what these young adults are learning. They're teaching us daily and I can't say enough how proud I am of our senior leadership, our coach's leadership and the flexibility that everybody has to show up ready to work.
When we've been quarantined and now, we obviously had the tragedy happened, they don't skip a beat. We talk about it, we understand it. We refuse to use it as an excuse.
Our thing this year is we have to stand out. We have to be better than everybody else. We have to be better in our community, be better in our building, do better in our houses. Just because something happens, we can't use it as an excuse. We have to use it as a learning opportunity and we have to stand out because of it.
Q: Sports have a weird way of becoming this method of healing. You saw it after 9/11, you see it during the pandemic when teams finally restarted returning to the fields. Usually it's something that you, me, your players are usually observing. What did you feel and what do you think your guys felt having to be that source of healing in that community?
Bishop: As soon as the lights are turned on and the ball is kicked off, it gives you the opportunity to be in a completely different world for those four quarters. For everybody involved, no matter what's going on in your life, the tragedy to what's going on at home to what's going on at school, you get four quarters to live in a different world. To compete. We talk about all the time about how students want to have fun. Well it's so much fun when you just get to compete.
And I saw it in our kids last night (Friday, March 26) for four quarters, we got to forget what happened down the street. We got to forget what happened on Monday. And as soon as the game's over, we get to reflect on what we were able to do and how important this game is to our lives.
Every coach says 'play it like it's your last play'. And you never know with COVID, with the tragedy, with everything when that is true. I just thought with our kids last night, that for four quarters we have to pay our respects to those that weren't able to play this game. And so it was important to our kids. The moment of silence was great. We took our time, we took our tears. It was very emotional and it has affected every kid differently. It has affected everyone in this community differently.
Our students know that it's an open door policy for all our coaches, for administration, for our school, that if you need to talk, let's talk. During the game, different players play for different reasons and had different tributes during the game. It was nice to be able to kind of be in a different world for four quarters.
Q: How much do you think they're going to savor that opportunity 10 years down the road when they think back to this year and they're reading in the history books about COVID and then obviously about the tragedy up the road?
Bishop: I can remember when I was a junior during the Columbine massacre, and you reflect now on just how it affected our entire community. I grew up in Arvada, just down the road from Littleton. One of my best friends was a student at Columbine and you reflect back on just how lucky we truly are and how, how blessed we are to be able to play any game or wake up every morning and be able to go hug our parents, to be able to call our friends on the phone.
And I think in 10 years, they're going to look back and know that they paid their respects. A lot of them don't know how to grieve or how to deal with this. We as coaches, have had the model that we all grieve in different ways and we all need different supports.
And at the end of the day, there's always going to be somebody, one of these coaches, an administrator or a friend that's there for you. All you have to do is pick up the phone. And I think they've learned that through this last couple of weeks, really through the last year with everything.
Story Written By: Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com
Photo Credit: Steve Oathout