Author: Cole Zercoe

By Blake Sebring The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — As he puts it, when Greg Addison attended Hammond High School, his school resources officer saved his life.

“He was the one who kept me out of trouble. I was heading down the wrong path one time and he snatched me back,” Addison said. “I was hanging out with a bad group of guys in gang life. He grabbed me right before I got into the storm. That’s my story about why I do what I do right now.”

Besides being the new Snider girls basketball coach, Addison, 39, is the school resources officer at Portage Middle School and has been a police officer for 16 years. He’s one of many Fort Wayne Police Department officers who also coach or officiate in Fort Wayne Community Schools.

“It’s about working with the kids and being a mentor,” Addison said. “Pretty much, you are instructing the kids how to survive when they are adults. It’s the same thing as a basketball coach, you are teaching them life and leadership skills, everything and not just sports.”

He’s also paying his mentor back. When he got the Snider job, Addison called Andy Short, now the assistant police chief in Hammond, to thank him. Short was also Addison’s basketball coach at Hammond.

Almost all of the police officers who are working extra hours as coaches and officials said it’s a way to give back to those who guided them when they were growing up. They are simply following their role models.

“I was a basketball player, and the coaches I had were just phenomenal in what they gave me in life to mold me as an individual,” said Public Information Officer Michael Joyner who officiates and is an assistant coach with the South Side girls basketball team. “I am giving it back and paying it forward, too. This is my opportunity, and I hope I’m having the same effect on these kids. I try to influence them in ways other than sports that they can carry forward with them in life.”

As an example, Joyner keeps encouraging the Archers to use the word “outstanding” in their speech. It’s positive, a word to build with.

“These kids need a chance and they need people to help them through life to make the right decisions, and we can teach that through sports,” he said. “These are life lessons that will help these girls later in making the right decisions. Those are the opportunities I cherish. I don’t get paid for doing this, but I am a richer man than anybody can imagine through doing this.”

Joyner, 60, has been with the police department for 24 years, while Curt Crouch, 49, has been a patrolman for 21 years and has been a wrestling official for 21. He was part of two state championship wrestling teams at Delta as an athlete and later coached at his alma mater. The last two years he worked the state finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He said his day job and his hobby are kind of similar.

“You have to make quick decisions whether it’s a close takedown, a pinning situation or in or out of bounds,” he said. “You have to have what it takes to make close calls, and you have to be able to communicate with people.”

James Payne, 47, has been both a patrolman and a sports official for the past 15 years. He worked two football and two baseball state championship games.

“Basically, we’re serving,” he said. “As a police officer, we are serving the community, and you have to make quick decisions for the benefit of the parties involved. In all sports, we are doing the same thing. We have to make decisions that can cause a team to win or lose sometimes, and it’s just like making decisions on the street. The main thing is trying to be a neutral party and doing what is right for all involved.

“We want to make the best decisions for the people we are serving, and hope that everybody understands that. We’re not trying to hurt anybody or cheat anybody. We’re just doing what the laws and the rules state. If I can look in the mirror and say I did my best to make sure the game is played fair and I made the best calls I could under the circumstances, then I can walk away knowing I did the best job I can do.”

Patrolman Kerry Haywood, 50, has been an assistant baseball and wrestling coach at South Side High School for the past six years. Like most coaches, he got into coaching because of his kids, but it became something bigger.

“You just get a love for the enjoyment that it brings to the kids,” he said. “It’s not about self-gratification. More than anything else, I just enjoy it when you get those one or two kids and you see how it affects them. Some of our kids need the sport more than the sport needs the kids. It’s wonderful when you get them to buy into a program and give you everything they have and achieve goals that no one else thought they could achieve. That says it all.”

While others may see two stressful jobs, serving as a police officer and coaching or officiating, the officers see as a hobby that is somewhat relaxing.

“They are two different entities to me,” said patrolman Aaron Johnson who is an assistant football coach at Wayne High School after serving six years as head coach at Miami Middle School. “The main thing is having social skills and patience, and my own personality. You give people the chance to learn. The kids don’t view me as a police officer, they view me as their coach because they have gotten to know me on a personal level.”

©2018 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

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