Mike Childress was the calming voice among fiery coaching personalities at Phoenix Sunnyslope and Buckeye Youngker.
It made him popular among the hundreds of football players, wrestlers and students he led.
Childress, an assistant football coach at Sunnsylope until last year, died in his sleep Tuesday morning at age 60.
“He was a great man and a great friend,” said Sunnyslope soccer and softball coach Mike Fenton, who helped out with the football program. “We coached freshmen football together for over a decade. He loved his teams and took the time to help every player.
“(Assistant coach) Chuck Watkins and I, to this day, always call him, ‘Coach Dad.’ He would do anything for his students, colleagues, football players, and wrestlers. He was a mentor to all of us.
“Everyday, no matter what, at the beginning of a practice or game, he would yell, ‘It’s a great day for football.’ ”
Childress took a job at Youngker last year to be the freshman counselor and assistant wrestling coach.
Youngker Principal Rob Roberson, who once led Sunnyslope, recruited Childress.
“He helped tremendously on this campus,” Roberson said. “It’s a huge, huge loss. It’s going to be difficult. Teachers come back on Friday.
“We put him as freshman counselor, because we wanted every single freshman have a great experience. He was phenomenal. Freshmen staying at our school is attributed to him. He would get to know every one of them. We wouldn’t drop off (in enrollment). He fathered them along. He did everything he could to help them academically and athletically.”
Sunnyslope head football coach Damon Pieri said Childress was the head junior-varsity football coach for five years and a freshman/JV assistant the rest of his time there.
“Mike was one of the most patient men I have ever come across,” Pieri said. “Always accountable and dedicated to his students and players. Mike was so relaxed as a person that he provided a calming presence in the coaches’ office and on the field with all the fiery personalities that come with a football staff. He would just smile and say, ‘Gentlemen, it’s still a wonderful day.’
“Mike will be missed.”
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