If you’re lucky, sometime in your life you get a chance to work with someone who inspires the best and sets expectations so high that you surprise everyone-except him-by achieving them. FIRST Team 2468 is that lucky, for we work with Coach Norman Morgan.
Six years ago, Coach, as he is known throughout FIRST, was a basketball coach at Westlake HS. From this experience he knows how to motivate students, carrying still the voice that forges speeches rousing us after placing last on a competition day and pushing us through weakness. When he looks in the student’s eyes, he knows exactly what they need (hug or roar) to face trials and find creative solutions.
But in six successful seasons he has learned engineering with the team. When we mistakenly place a steel rivet, Coach drills with us for hours before laughing over a pile of broken bits. Then he makes sure we learn our lesson, showing he cares very loudly. When we have trouble CADing, he shows us tools on the screen. But as with those in the shop, he only gives us the tools needed to succeed. We must use them to forge our own success.
Coach didn’t have to learn Coopertition and Gracious Professionalism. As he explains to new members, FRC isn’t about winning but learning, inspiring and sharing respect. So at competition you won’t see 2468 in the stands, because he taught us to help other teams; to communicate that we are here to help. Of our deeds, he boasts of the many bots we have fixed, from 2613, whose pit had more of 2468 than ours, to 2158, whose bot we fixed then gladly faced in semifinals.
To grow our program, Coach somehow swayed us to resign our BEST season to begin/mentor 2 middle school teams. With us he taught them to use math and pushed them and us to look at the elegant way to solve problems. They had him named BEST Coach of the Year.
As others observe his inspirational ways at competition, respect of him throughout FIRST grows. 148 mentor John V-Neun says “Coach has become an institution in Texas FIRST. He is the type of mentor who makes an event better just by being there. His positive influence is felt not only among students on his team, but every student who gets a chance to interact with him. I love it when we get a chance to play with 2468, since I know my students will get to spend time with him.” Even John Novak of 16 “look[s] forward to events with 2468 because Norman’s ability to communicate with partners and lead his team on the field and in the pit.”
Coach now promotes STEM in the FIRST fashion. As a LEGO Educator Advisory Panelist, he inspires educators, as he has taught us to do with elementary and middle schools students. Alumni credit success in STEM on his positive role modeling that now forms us into a team.
But the coolest thing about Coach, and most testing, is his humility. Despite his leadership, his kindness, and his support, he would say he doesn’t deserve the WFA. But I think, as the man I respect more than any kin/friend, he is the only one I know who does.