Diaspora

More Than Football: Work in Haiti, Compton Has Put Things in Perspective for Redbank Valley Coach Gold – exploreclarion.com

 
Posted by Mike Kilroy
Gold 1NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Blane Gold sweltered in the Haiti heat in 2010, digging foundations and helping to lay waterlines for communities that were devastated by the earthquake that ravaged the Greater Antilles’ island.
Year after year, he went back to lend a helping hand.
Year after year, he was struck with the same sobering thought.
“There’s no reason I’m not in the same situation those people are in other than where I was born,” said Gold, who teaches senior government and economics and junior sociology and psychology at Redbank High School. He is also the head football coach at the school.

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“A normal child in Haiti eats once every three days. It really changes your outlook on life.”
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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.
It also puts coaching football in perspective. Suddenly, wins and losses on Friday nights seem insignificant in comparison.
“Taking those trips has always done a good job of keeping me balanced and seeing how fortunate we all are. We’re very grateful. Grateful to have what he have.”
Gold has always tried to stay grounded. Sure, the losses sting on Friday nights, and the victories fill him with euphoria just like anyone else.
But to Gold, the bigger picture is never far from view.
He’s learned that in Haiti.
He’s learned that on his other missionary trips to places like Costa Rica.
He even learned that here in the United States when he traveled to Compton, California, as part of an outreach program to help run a football camp in an area besieged by gun violence.

“Compton was really an eye-opener, especially when people would hear you are from Clarion,” said Gold, who made the trip there in 2017 — only five years after Compton had the highest per capita murder rate in the nation.
Gold, his group, and the players in the camp stayed in an old, abandoned school that was turned into a dormitory. Barbed wire snaked across the top of the walls that surrounded the building.
In the quiet times, they’d ask Gold questions.
One of the first things they wondered about was hunting and what Gold and his group did with the animals they killed.
“We told them we eat them,” Gold said. “They were grossed out by that. It makes you understand how when you talk to them about something like guns, there are people in this country who only associate guns with violence and people dying. Then, there’s these people who shoot for sport. They were shocked to hear that we don’t hear gunshots in our neighborhood on a regular basis.”
Gold spent a week in Compton, getting to know the campers and what they were going through in their daily lives. Football was secondary — a backdrop for the experience for both Gold, his group, and the players.
He learned their lives were nothing like his. That was the point, though — to broaden his understanding of other places on the map.
“Compton really taught me when you’re having a discussion with someone where you’re on opposing sides, you don’t have to agree with them. You can have compassion and understanding of where they are coming from,” Gold said. “Essentially for a week, the group of us who were there — we were the minority.
“Tying this back to our team, we have four African-Americans on our team,” Gold added. “It’s been really neat to see this team really embrace each other’s cultures. That’s been satisfying.”
Long before leading Redbank Valley to the PIAA Class A semifinals this season, Gold grew up in Franklin, Pa. He played football for the Knights and then moved on to play at Grove City College.
Even back in high school, Gold had a clear picture of what he wanted to do.

“I think I realized in high school that I wanted to coach,” Gold said. “A mentor of mine was Tiger LaVerde.”
LeVerde coached at Franklin when Gold played there. LeVerde is now the head football coach at Kirtland High School in Ohio where he has his team in the state championship game for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
Kirtland has won 55 consecutive games — the longest streak in the nation.
“He made you work hard, but you had fun every single day,” Gold said of LeVerde. “You get to the point where you know, ‘all right, I’m not going to be a professional athlete. What am I going to do?’ I knew that coaching was a way that I was going to stay in the game. I was determined, probably in my junior or senior year of high school, that I wanted to be a teacher and coach.”
Gold and LeVerde have remained close.
Gold reached out to LeVerde this week to get some advice on the matchup on Friday in the semifinals against WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin.
“It’s been so nice to have a mentor like that who is one phone call away,” Gold said. “He’s one of the winningest coaches in high school football in America right now, but you still know he’s gonna pick up the phone on the first ring when you need advice.”
LeVerde’s brother, Matt, gave Gold his first coaching job at Oil City.
Gold was still finishing up his degree in his fifth year at Grove City College.
“I had an extra year of school because I changed my major late, so I had already used up my four years of eligibility,” Gold said.
He spent two years as an assistant at Oil City and learned a great deal from Matt LeVerde about what coaching high school football is mostly about.
Spoiler alert: little of it involves Xs and Os.
“You realize pretty quickly that that’s only about 5% of it,” Gold said. “It’s a large percentage of being a psychologist, running the program, getting apparel, fundraising. I learned a lot from Matt on that end of it.”
Gold left to pursue the head coaching job at Franklin. He interviewed well, but the administration thought he was still too young and inexperienced to tackle those kinds of duties.
Instead, they offered him an assistant position and the junior varsity head coaching job.
Before that first season was over, Gold got a job as a teacher at Redbank Valley. The next season he joined Ed Wasilowski’s staff with the Bulldogs.
Gold took over for Wasilowski three seasons ago.
He wouldn’t have taken the job, he said, if he couldn’t retain some of his assistant coaching colleagues.
“I would absolutely not be able to do this without any of my assistants,” Gold said. “When I started coaching here, (Jason Kundick) was already the (offensive coordinator). There’s no way I could do this without Jason. I’m a big believer in divvying up responsibilities and trusting people and, honestly, Wednesday is the first time during the week I really see anything of what our offensive gameplan is because I completely, 100% trust him. He allows me to focus solely on the defensive side.
“I essentially told him I wouldn’t do this without him.”
In his first campaign as the head coach, Redbank Valley advanced to the District 9 Class A championship game, losing to Coudersport.
Last year, the Bulldogs avenged that loss, beating Coudy to earn a spot in the district title game and bringing home the championship with a win over Smethport.
This season, Redbank lost its opener, but has rattled off 12 consecutive wins — including another D9 title, this one over Union/A-C Valley — to reach the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Gold has a 28-5 record in three seasons.
“I think you learn something new every year,” Gold said. “You’re always trying to challenge yourself. You’re always trying to learn new things. The biggest thing you learn over time is how to deal with kids and how to deal with parents and run a program – because at the end of the day, I think the people who really care and really take it seriously know it’s a 12-month endeavor. You can’t just pay attention from August to November. You have to make the commitment year-round.
“My biggest goal is I just want to create a program that I would have enjoyed playing in as a player.”

Senior Gunner Manginatini said Gold has done just that.
It isn’t just one thing that Gold has done that has endeared him to players like Mangiantini; it’s multiple things.
“He’s just a great guy,” Mangiantini said. “I like him as a coach because he’s young enough. He’s one of those coaches who will practice with us. That adds another level when a coach is hands-on with us and puts the time in to help us. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s played before, too, in college. He just knows how to coach.”
Gold and his staff had to make a difficult decision before this season to hand the quarterback job to senior Bryson Bain, who was playing his first year of high school football, over Mangiantini, who is also a senior.
Gold called it the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in coaching. It paid off. Bain is enjoying a big season.
There’s been a role for Mangiantini, too, who has done everything from fullback to long snapper — and, yes, quarterback — for the Bulldogs.
“Sophomore year when I got the phone call from him that I was going to be the starter, we were on the phone for 15, 20 minutes talking about how that was going to help us down the road,” Mangiantini said. “Obviously, the talk this season, I had a different approach to it, but he handled it in the same way.”
Wins are nice.
Playing deep into the state playoffs and seeing how his team stacks up against other powerhouses from other districts is nice, too.
To Gold, though, he measures success in other ways.
He’s seen his players overcome adversity, just as he’s seen children in Haiti and other parts of the world fight do it. Just as he’s seen teenagers in Compton try to do it.
That is what Gold cherishes the most.
“That’s the truly rewarding stuff,” Gold said. “That’s what you feel good about. You’re always trying to connect things to life lessons and just stress that overcoming things on and off the football field carries over to life. Sometimes we get caught up in the winning, and we get caught up in the losing, but football teaches you how to get knocked down and how to keep getting back up and keep coming back.”
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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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