“Sports are about more than results,” says Chuck Law, Free State High School’s boys basketball head coach.
“Outsiders often judge sports by external measurables like results. Coaches also judge by immeasurables like when kids give their very best and build character.”
That’s not to say results don’t matter; Law believes it’s important to keep life’s bigger picture in mind.
Raised in Emporia, Law says his parents instilled in him and his three older brothers the importance of good character and serving others. His high school coaches did the same.
“Those guys influenced me greatly,” he says. “They were supportive, believed in me, challenged me to be and do my best. They had a big impact on me.”
Law participated in all sports and often thought it would be cool to be a coach. He rejected a golf scholarship to Emporia State University and attended Kansas University to do accounting.
“I thought I might become a sports agent or something connected with the sporting world,” he says.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1990, Law was lured into becoming a tax accountant for an international investment firm with offices in Kansas City.
“The money was good, but it wasn’t fulfilling and satisfying. I wanted to do something with my life that would make an impact,” he says.
Law returned to Emporia, graduated from ESU with a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate in 1995, and taught and coached with his early mentors at Emporia State High School. He returned to Lawrence in 1999 as a part-time social studies teacher at Free State and as assistant soccer and basketball coach. He became boys’ head basketball coach in 2005.
“Bill Self told me that moving 18 inches on the bench would make a difference,” he recalls.
“It’s true. The head coach responsibilities are greater. You have to be a good administrator, ensure all aspects of the program run smoothly, and keep people motivated.”
The Free State basketball program has 40 freshmen through seniors. It’s important to Law to keep the kids motivated and encourage them to become the best they can be. Despite often working 16-hour days, he still enjoys his role and interaction with the kids, and recently earned a master’s degree in liberal arts from Baker University.
“It’s important for me to keep learning and improving myself,” he says.
“The kids keep me energized, and our whole team does our very best to develop the team’s talents. As a coach I keep reminding myself it’s the kids who do the hard physical work, and they’re the ones who have to go on the court and play. The focus needs to be on the team, not the coach.”
The basketball team meets weekly for dinner as a relationship-building exercise, and during recent snowfalls Law led the team around the neighborhood to shovel snow for those unable to do it themselves.
“It’s important to lead by example,” he says. “It’s very satisfying when I meet former students and they thank me for the impact I’ve had on their lives. That makes it all worthwhile.”