Compassionate Coach Makes Difference in Life of High School Athlete
By Wilbur Braithwaite
In the winter of 1946-47, Weber Junior College (now Weber State University) of Ogden, Utah, played Snow Junior College at Ephraim, Utah, in an Intermountain Conference basketball game. Since Ephraim is only seven miles from my hometown of Manti, and being a member of the Weber Wildcats, this contest was a homecoming for me. My parents, who had never seen me play in college, along with other relatives, former high school teammates and friends, were in the stands. Being a non-starter at the time, it was a surprise to hear the announcer intone, “and starting tonight at forward is 6′ 3” Wilbur Braithwaite of Manti.”
Although more than 51 years have gone by since then, a poignant memory of that unexpected announcement remains vivid. Despite my coach’s calculated gamble of juggling the usual starting lineup and giving a reserve considerable playing time, the Wildcats, nonetheless, topped the Badgers, 61-45.
The Weber mentor, Reed K. Swenson, was a compassionate man who found little ways to bring the human touch to coaching and the teaching process. Like many of his former players, I found him to be not only a coach for two seasons, but a life-long friend and confidant.
In my retirement year of coaching basketball (1988), Manti High School participated in the Utah State 2-A High School Basketball Tournament held at Weber State University. Still living in Ogden, Coach Swenson remained mentally active 90-year-old optimist. Visiting at his home, I discovered that he not only knew all about the Manti Templars, but also shared coaching tips, gave encouragement, reminisced about the “good old days” and extolled the virtues of sending cassette-recorded “oral letters to children and grandchildren. Throughout the visit, he had a twinkle in his eye. He said he was busy writing a book to be titled, How To Raise Cain At One Hundred If You Are Able. READ MORE