Two men. Both brash. Both outspoken. Both with a chip on their shoulder. Opposing coaches and teams sometimes didn’t care for them, but the parents and athletes they coached who accepted their philosophies excelled on and off the field.

After one game, Bill Kramer, the new head football coach of Naples High in Florida, looked dejected, disappointed and a bit angry. Opposing players from the squad, which just hung more than 55 points on his beleaguered troops, danced on the giant eagle-head logo at midfield.

He turned to watch for a moment with a most sour expression on his face before returning his gaze to the reporter. He pointed at the midfield celebration.

“I truly hope every one of my players stands and watches this, because it’s tough when another team gets to celebrate like that in the middle of your field.”

The first time I met Coach Kramer he preached intensity, discipline, education, desire and more, but the words, which stick in my head more than two decades later, were the three he uttered most often – sense of urgency.

Some players heard the words and rolled their eyes. Others listened to them and found ways to make the most of the time they had as high school athletes.

Kramer and his coaches brought a hard work philosophy to the Golden Eagles. During my coverage of a mid-summer weightlifting competition Naples held, I saw the results of the words and the work beginning to take shape. Several Naples players recorded bests in various lifts. The sense of urgency Kramer preached seemed to be infecting the whole team.

That urgency paid off over the years to come with several semifinals appearances and a couple of state football titles.

A year before meeting Kramer, I was introduced to a tall, skinny bundle of energy named Jeff Sommer. Sommer coached cross country for Estero High School with the ferocity, intensity and fervor usually reserved for football coaches.

He screamed. He yelled. He disciplined. And he ran every mile and every workout next to
his charges.

He forced his teams to meet at 5:30 a.m. some days before school to train. He said they did it to help escape the brutal heat and humidity that haunts Southwest Florida for the majority of the year.

He also did it to prove a point. If an athlete wanted to run for Sommer, they had to put in the work. Team members became well acquainted with a simple three-word philosophy.

Discipline. Dedication. Desire.

Sommer called them the 3D’s and those words and a 3D logo emblazoned almost every piece of clothing he and his charge wore. One day, I asked him why he selected the words.

He paused, chewed on his lip for a minute and launched into a soliloquy capable of motivating an old mule to run a marathon. He had a way with words. The short version, paraphrased of course, went something like this.

If you think about these things and do them every day and live the 3D motto good things will happen. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you will improve whether it’s in running or life.

Sommer and Kramer lived and coached by their words and their examples. While Kramer didn’t don pads and a helmet and line up with his charges, I saw him running sprints against his players on more than one occasion.

Sommer ran almost every mile with his team. He did take a few weeks off after suffering a heart attack during a run, but that served as a minor setback.

Athletes, parents and spectators saw the coaches working and sweating with their players and gave them respect. Their athletes not only listened to their words but began living them,
even when it wasn’t easy.

It’s funny. I’ve interviewed a couple hundred coaches over the past 25 years. And these two almost always pop up in my head when I begin thinking about the best. Not because they both coached numerous state championship-winning teams and won, but because I saw how much they cared about all of their athletes and how much they wanted them to succeed.

And those words still stick today. If someone asks me what I believe separates the great athletes from the good athletes, I morph the
two philosophies.

Practicing and playing with a sense of urgency, knowing that you have to go as hard as you can each and every day while throwing in the dedication, discipline and desire to work and get better serves as a huge litmus test.

While the words don’t guarantee state titles or wins, so many high school athletes under their tutelage took them and applied them to sports, academics and life and have found success.

Kramer to this day coaches Naples High and continues to have success; I’m guessing that sense of urgency continues to exist on the sidelines. And while Sommer tragically died a few years ago, those three words and his 3D motto live on.

And even for a 45-year-old former sportswriter, when evaluating work, the 3Ds and the sense of urgency come into play and I hope that my efforts are up to the levels these coaches set for
their charges.

An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.