By Khymyle Mims
What makes a role model? Think back to someone you looked up to, who kept you out of trouble and had a huge influence on the person you turned out to be. You may know their name and some basic information about them, but what made them the person they turned out to be?
If you were to ask these questions to current eighth and ninth graders at Brooklyn Center High School 10 years from now, they may say that person was DeAnte Michaud — better known as Coach to them. Michaud, a 2011 graduate of Hampton University, says those role models for him were a few of his basketball coaches and others who looked out for him in his journey to become the man he is today.
“I wasn’t even supposed to get in [Hampton University] because financially I wasn’t clear… I was blessed to meet a lady, Ms. Felicia Witter of Virginia,” Michaud says. He credits her with changing his life by putting her job on the line for him and others in order to give them a chance at an education.
Michaud believes that she may have lost her job for engaging in the activity of admitting students into the college prior to their official acceptance, something the young coach humbly thanks her for because it gave him an opportunity that he may not have otherwise received to improve his life.
While he may have gotten into a college that only accepts 37 percent of its applicants and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business in a year when only 38 percent of African American students graduated, DeAnte should be building a career for some Fortune 500 company, right? If you were to ask him, he’d say that he’s bounced through a few jobs and is now working in construction. “It’s a money move,” DeAnte says. In fact, a lot of his decisions after college have been “money moves.”
Besides coaching, that is. “The only thing I ever loved has been basketball and kids, working with kids.”
So how does a 24-year-old African American male become the head coach of his own team? Like most things in his life thus far, someone saw something in DeAnte that he had yet to see in himself.
“I had just been coming in and just working out with some of the kids and doing drills with them. [Lamii Zarlee, Brooklyn Center High School head coach,] said he wanted me to coach. He said he thought I’d be a good fit for it,” says Michaud. Not really looking to get into coaching at the time, he chose to take the challenge to turn these “hoopers” into basketball players.
While understanding that he plays such an influential role with most of his players, knowing that for a few there is no father in the home, Michaud hopes to instill a new mindset. As a coach, he speaks about establishing accountability, building a strong work ethic, teaching his strongest player to be a leader, and hoping that it transcends from on the court into real life as well.
“[I’m] trying to do everything for them that I had people do for me, or the things I never had,” says the young coach. Not minding opening up the gym for a private workout session or even giving rides to or from games, for Michaud it’s all about making a difference. He says that if his players told him he was not making a difference in their personal lives he wouldn’t quit, but instead he’d be forced to fix it just as he instructs his own players to do.
Khymyle Mims is a student at Normandale Community College and a summer journalism intern at the MSR. He welcomes reader comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.