JMU alum starts nonprofit to help coaches who are facing hardships
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Good coaches can make a big difference. That’s why a James Madison University football alum created a nonprofit aimed at giving back and helping coaches and their families in a time of need.
Casey Kroll played football for JMU from 2011 to 2015. He said his senior year offensive line coach, Jamal Powell, made a big impact on him, not just as a football player, but in every aspect of his life.
“Everyone should have a Coach Powell,” Kroll said.
Kroll appreciated how Coach Powell made an effort to build trusting and meaningful relationships with his players. He said Powell is who inspired him to want to become a coach himself after college.
“I told him I was interested in getting into coaching, and specifically learning how to coach offensive line from him. He was receptive to it, and he let me kind of stay as his understudy at James Madison,” Kroll explained.
He ended up following Powell to Texas for coaching jobs there. Not long after, though, Powell was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome. Months later Powell was diagnosed with colon cancer, which ended up taking his life last year.
Seeing how hard this was on Powell and his family, Kroll decided he wanted to do something help. He wanted to find a way to give back, not just to the Powell’s but any coach like him who may be facing tough times. That’s when the Big Man Foundation was created.
“If they have an illness they need help overcoming, if a family member gets sick and the family needs help. We help with domestic abuse. We’ll help if you lose your home in a natural disaster,” Kroll explained.
BMF is also working to prevent these types of tragedies. The organization plans to educate coaches on general wellness and partnering with athletic programs to designate a day to get a health check up.
“In coaching, in general, there’s kind of a stigma with, like, if you feel something’s wrong, you don’t admit it, you don’t miss work for any reason. That stigma can be very unhealthy, and that’s something that we’re going to try to challenge,” Kroll said.
Kroll hopes that by doing these things through the Big Man Foundation, he can help great coaches continue to be an integral part of their athletes’ lives.
“They’re some of the most influential people that a young person will have in their entire life. Some studies say between ages 8 and 18, a coach becomes more influential than a peer group, a teacher, and, in some cases, even parents,” Kroll said.
You can learn more about the Big Man Foundation by going to https://www.thebigmanfoundation.org
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