By Chris Parsons/Staff Writer

Thirty years is a long time when it comes to coaching, but that’s how long TECO Coal coach Wayne Willis has been at it.

Willis’ team capped off a phenomenal season on Thursday with a league tournament title after going 16-0 in the regular season as well.

What drives a guy with no children of his own to spend much of his life coaching other peoples kids three months out of the year?

Willis’ assistant Kevin Terry summed it up in one word: love.

“Wayne just loves these kids,” he said. “You can see it in the way he talks to them, the way he helps them and even the way he yells at them.

“And he does yell at them quite a bit,” Terry added. “But he does it in love.”

For Willis, he said the past 30 years have not just been about teaching and coaching baseball, but life lessons as well.

“Here’s the way I see it,” Willis said. “Yes you can go 18-0 or whatever in a season, but if you have a bunch of rowdy, disrespectful kids in the end, you haven’t done your job.

“The main thing I try to teach my kids is how to act outside the white lines,” he added. “Sometimes people will remember you if you hit .500 in a season,” he added. “But if you treat people with respect or if you are not a good person off the field, they will remember you for another reason.”

Willis has spent as much time in the military as he has coaching Little League and to watch his team, it shows. He is a Command Sergeant Major and says his leadership ability has come from his experiences in life.

After winning his eighth league tournament title on Thursday, he said coaching is all about developing a system and sticking with it.

“Whether you like it or not or whether the kids like it you have to stick with a system,” he said. “And really, you don’t have to just stick with it, you have to believe in it yourself.

“After that you have to get the kids to buy in to it and just keep pounding it into their head,” he added. “You won’t always be the best team, but if you stick with the way you do things, your kids will learn the right way.”

But through eight championships and three decades of coaching, Willis said the best part of what he has done is when his players come back and share what they have learned in life.

“I really enjoy when people I have coached get their kids involved in baseball,” he said. “But what’s better than that is when they come back and coach themselves.

“When you think about it, guys like me will have to lay it down eventually and it will be nice to have people you trust to take over,” he added.

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