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If there’s one coach who is on a mission to bring a community together it’s Russ Cole of the Pax River Raiders football program.

Cole, originally from Nicholasville, Ky., and currently a Lexington Park resident, was honored by the National Alliance for Youth Sports Coaches Association in New Orleans at the Ernest N. Memorial Convention Center on Nov. 30.

Cole and his wife Erin Cole, who nominated Russ, took part in the interactive session at the Youth Sports Congress. Erin and Russ Cole have coached flag football and kickball together for over five years as their children have participated.

The Coles were coaches of the Pax River Raiders Super Tiny Mites and were joined by head coach Brian Wiegman, defensive field assistant Andrew McCarthy, defensive line coach Len Price and team mother Jodi Powell. Russ Cole was the offensive line coach.

This past season was Russ’ first season coaching tackle football. The Coles were contacted by Emmy Martinez, Vice President of the NYSCA about winning the award.

“It was funny because my wife and I had just gone down to New Orleans, and within 24 hours of returning, I got the phone call from Emmy, telling me that I was one of five finalists,” Russ said, “and Erin was trying to keep it a secret. They were very hospitable. Just to be around the five different organizations that were there from all around the country was great.”

Russ had gotten an outpouring of support from St. Mary’s Recreation and Parks and got word that he had indeed won the honor. He donated the award publicly to KaVaughn Woodson, whom he coached in various sports.

“His family is in the Navy and have transferred to Japan where KaVaughn now plays flag football and various other sports,” Russ said. “Super family who I miss.”

Russ said he is thankful to the many great football programs and coaches that St. Mary’s County has to offer.

“Thanks to coach Billy Johnson, now the President of the Leonardtown Wildcats. He took me under his wing when I started coaching back in 2009.” Russ said. “I want parents and everyone to know that we really do have some great programs here in St. Mary’s County and at this level and age 5 to 6, it’s all about getting them socialized and learning to take the wins and the losses because there’s going to be both in life. I’ve seen these guys and women out here really putting their hearts into their teams and that’s what it’s about.”

Russ said he will always remember the one win his team had during the season. It was the final play of the game and, with his assistant Chief Shawn Downs of Bay District Fire Department at his side, everyone was looking to see what had happened during the play as there was a lot of commotion in the end zone.

“All the sudden we see Jackson Downs dive for it and we see him holding up the flag,” Russ Cole said. “It was like we’d won the Super Bowl. Everyone just started picking up kids and running down the field. That was the most memorable win for us. It was our only win but that was the most memorable game I’ve ever coached. They were so proud of their accomplishments.”

Russ said he wants parents to take another look at football and make a calculated decision about signing their child up.

“I’d say for them to give any sport a try first,” Russ said. “It’s about getting out and getting their child exercise. It’s more than a competitive game, you’re teaching them life lessons. There’s a whole new attitude now here about football. We’re not recruiting. We’re just keeping open lines of communication with the parents. As a coaching staff this year we all had our strengths. I learned a lot about drills from other coaches. Our team mom, Jodi Powell, we couldn’t have done it without her.”

In her nomination letter to the NYSCA Erin said, “Russ is truly on that field with the kids because he absolutely loves the sport of football, and absolutely loves helping little boys and girls, usually ages 4 to 7 enjoy the sport to the best of his or her ability.”

She also said that her husband likes to come up with acronyms. Russ came up with TEAM: Together Everyone Always Matters.

Cole hopes to be back out on the field next season, but it all depends on how well he heals from hip-replacement surgery and his kids desires to play as he and Erin will follow their lead.

For more information on the National Alliance for Youth Sports, go to www.NAYS.org .

tshowalter@somdnews.com