In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions; he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, Damien Blair '91, head men's basketball coach at West Chester University, recounts his influential teachers, coaches and mentors from The Haverford School, and shares some advice for his players and current students.
Which faculty members from Haverford really influenced you?
There were several faculty members from Haverford who had a profound influence on my development as a student. I was always impressed with how passionate the faculty was and how they went to great lengths to share their knowledge.
However, one teacher in particular, Mr. Brownlow, left an indelible mark on me and changed the way I viewed history. His lectures were supported by detailed recollections that connected me to the World War II era. His keepsakes that he shared with his classes gave us tangible objects which brought the lessons alive. This made it easier for me to immerse myself into his subject area and ultimately developed my love for history.
Who have been some of your influential coaches, and what did they teach you?
My athletic experiences at Haverford helped me analyze, evaluate and process things differently. I learned these skills from Coach Jack MacMullan, who had an uncanny ability of motivating individuals. He was demanding, but understood how to bring a group together in order to accomplish a common goal. I respected and admired his position as administrator and coach and how he used sports as a way to teach life skills. His mentorship definitely impacted me and played a major role in the selection of my career path of coaching.
Coach Dick DeLaney (former West Chester University Coach), Coach Michael Mersky (former Haverford coach and director of admissions) and Ed Rush (NBA official, and father of two Haverford School graduates, Ed Rush, Jr. '91 and Michael Rush '93), have all taught me how to work hard, overcome adversity, and demand excellence from myself and from those around me. They also encouraged me to challenge myself, give back to my community and pave a way for others to follow.
Be a sponge! Soak up and learn from every experience, every lesson and every community event. This unique exposure to the Haverford School community will give nourishment to your roots and will allow you to grow and mature to your fullest potential.
What lessons or life skills do you hope to impart to your players?
Our program’s mission is to use basketball as a way to prepare young men for life. There are many lessons that can be taught throughout a season that can help young men obtain skills necessary to be productive contributors to society. My hope is that they learn and understand the importance of hard work, perseverance, discipline, professionalism, and leadership, throughout their interactions with me and my staff.
The most rewarding part of my job is building character in young men and watching them grow and mature under my leadership and guidance. The process of helping them shift through the weeds in search of their lifelong passion is exhilarating. Witnessing their happiness and glow once they have found their passion is definitely worth its weight in gold.
How do you think current students should make the most of their Haverford education?
As I tell my son, who is a current Haverford School student: Be a sponge! Soak up and learn from every experience, every lesson and every community event. This unique exposure to the Haverford School community will give nourishment to your roots and will allow you to grow and mature to your fullest potential. Lastly, challenge yourself and embrace situations that make you uncomfortable because these are the places where growth and learning can take place.
I commuted 1 hour and 45 minutes each way, each day, to attend Haverford. This is not something that many high school students would enjoy, but it definitely builds character. Inclement weather, late practices, or night contests often led to inconvenient and dreadful commutes home. However, looking back, I would say the experience, relationships, and knowledge gained were well worth the sacrifice.