Eric Fox remembers his friend, Allan Trimble, one year after his passing
By Eric Fox, Jenks High School Associate Principal
It’s been a year. We know 2020 has been a strange year in and of itself, but it has also been one year since our community lost a leader, a mentor, an educator, and an influencer. In some ways, it seems I should refer to him as Coach Trimble, but “coach” cannot entirely capture all that he has been for so many. There is a stadium with his name on it, but more importantly, there are hearts with his impression on them, not just in our community but literally all over the world. The work of the Trimble Strong Foundation continues to impact lives as “salt and light” in urban communities, foreign countries and even families made bigger and stronger through adoption.
Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Allan Trimble selflessly acted to improve the lot of others and sent forth ripples of hope for innumerable people across decades of a career. He made too many decisions to count ranging from what time to stop the bus on a road trip for a stretch of the legs and a pre-game snack, to whether a practice should be in full pads, half pads or shirts and shorts, as well as whether to go for it on third down, take the wind in the fourth quarter or how to resolve a challenge with his staff or a player. Some of those decisions wouldn’t be classified as demonstrating courage, but others had implications for the future of his program, a young person’s trajectory or even a community.
Allan always reminded his staff that we were “in the kid business.” In fact, he was judged (as most coaches are) based in large part on what groups of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds decided to do. He didn’t make excuses for this. He saw his job as an opportunity to influence future generations by celebrating achievements, taking both wins and losses with humility and grace, and building others up by recognizing the God-given dignity each individual possesses. Perhaps this is part of what made his interaction with our Special Olympians so authentic – he truly saw the good and the potential in all. Many times, he would remark that a player may need the program more than the program needed the player. In other words, although he coached some talented players that made it in top college programs or even the NFL, he wasn’t just a coach for those individuals. He was a coach for the entire team including a player that was relegated to a role without the spotlight of Friday night lights. His investment into lives was more about building the best in others than what he or his team gained.
A quote that Coach Trimble often referenced comes from John Shedd who wrote in 1928, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Allan knew tough times, battles and struggles both before his diagnosis of ALS and afterwards. He embraced them as learning opportunities for himself and those around him. He didn’t seek refuge in playing it safe but in his faith, which sustained him and his family and friends who faced tough times alongside him.
Allan Trimble and his example still teaches us today, even in the midst of a challenging year. Let us honor his legacy by setting out on the rough seas and steering the ship. Let us continue to be taught by this mentor that all have dignity and worth to be nurtured. Allan Trimble gave many inspiring talks in pre-games, half times, post games and several other venues, but the life that he modeled achieves what no speech could ever do. We understand that we are stronger together than any of us separately. For those lessons, we are grateful for the ripples of hope he continues to send forth.