Exclusive Q&A: Oklahoma's Bob Stoops on the impact of coaching

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Men who coach youth and high school sports have the ability to shape the next generation by showing care and offering guidance and support on and off the field.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops knows this all too well, which is why he has such a deep passion for his job.

New Dove Men+Care Deodorant research shows that 9 in 10 coaches today believe coaching enriches their lives, which is why the global men's grooming brand is partnering with the College Football Hall of Fame to celebrate the most caring youth football coaches across the country, and the impact their actions have on communities, athletes, and themselves.

The second annual installment of this Dove Men+Care Deodorant campaign launches just in time for the start of football season, and will champion real men for their efforts on and off the field. The brand will identify opportunities to showcase how men who coach are enriched by the opportunities to mentor and support those around them, and by acting as positive role models in their communities. These include the return of the "Caring Coach of the Year" award, which will honor four deserving youth football coaches across the United States and enjoy a season-long partnership with Stoops.

Stoops, who has coached the Sooners for 17 years and has received multiple "coach of the year" awards, shared first-hand experiences of the ways in which coaching has made him feel happier, more confident and stronger over the last three decades.

He will also play an integral role in selecting the "Caring Coach of the Year" award recipients and will assist Dove Men+Care Deodorant in the development of an upcoming free, coach-sourced curriculum designed to help coaches shape the next generation of leaders.

Starting this week, the brand and the Hall will open the submission window for the next "Caring Coach of the Year" award, encouraging fans to share the stories of the ways in which their local youth football coaches have made a difference in their lives and in their communities. Ultimately, the four coaches who most strongly display passion, determination, respect, support and encouragement will receive this award.

In 2014, 827 coaches were nominated for the award, and the four winners have collectively touched the lives of more than 30,000 athletes, and counting. Once again, this year's winners and their nominators will receive a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, where the coaches will be honored by the College Football Hall of Fame. The winning coaches will also receive funding to continue to cultivate their local football programs.

Submissions can be made via Twitter and Facebook by using the #CaringCoachAward or by visiting Dovemencare.com.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops took some time to hang out with AOL Sports and discuss how special dedicating his life to coaching has been for him and his family.

Q: How did you get involved with this new initiative?

A: It's really exciting, and it's something that is near and dear to my heart. I grew up with a football and basketball coach and the uncle I'm named after was a high school coach. It's all about recognizing how coaches are helping kids succeed, but don't necessarily have the big stage we have. The study they did, showing 94 percent of men say being a coach has made them feel like a positive role model in their community.

I know that, because my dad, as a devoted high school coach (Note: Stoops' father coached at Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown, Ohio and won numerous state championships), wouldn't change a day of his life. And it's also showing integrity, molding and strengthening these future men. So, this Dove Men+Care is bringing that to light, and it's pretty neat.

Q: What would you be doing if you hadn't become a coach?

A: What would I be doing? Coaching. (Laughter). I'd be coaching something, somewhere, some level. And to be truthful, when I retire, I want to become a middle-school basketball coach.

Q: Can you think of a time in your coaching career when you really felt like you made a difference in someone's life?

A: There's a neat story about Sterling Shepard and I, winning an award from ESPN this past year. It was based on Sterling's dad having passed away as a grad assistant for me back in '99. Sterling, who is my all-star receiver now, was just a tike. He was 5 or 6. I went to see his mother and I told her I'd treat him like one of our own children. Anytime he's able to, he can come to practice, he can be on the sidelines, I want him in the locker room after games -- because I know his dad would've had him here. We had a really strong bond because of that history. Even when he was in middle school, we got him shoes, gloves.

Sterling's father was going to be a great, young coach. He passed away in his 30s and it really impacted me. I really liked him and thought he'd be a star in coaching and he was a great father. Little Sterling, he knew, his dad would've had him there. It gets back to being the son of a coach. I was on the football field and locker room all the time. And I wanted this young guy to have that opportunity.

Q: Being involved with this initiative, are there any things things you want to work on personally to become an even better role model for kids?

A: Oh, jeez, in every aspect. Obviously, every part of my life I want to improve. I'm not gonna detail it publicly, though. Probably not wise to do.

Q: Was there a time where you thought, 'this coaching thing is a lot harder than I thought it'd be?'

A: Oh, no. I love it. Best part of the day is going out there and working with your players and interacting with them as young men. And hopefully, I'm influencing them and putting them in front of the right things daily.

Q: What are some special ingredients it takes to be a great high school coach?

A: I think it's a deep passion for helping young men develop and succeed. I think as much as anything, these guys just do it for the love of the game, the joy of the competition, the joy of young men. I can remember my father having the joy of seeing young men who may have struggled early -- and all of a sudden, mid-year or in another year he's thriving. You smile at that, because you know you had a hand in him fulfilling his dreams and succeeding so well.

What's more gratifying than that? Seeing your hard work in someone else. It's still that way for me, seeing freshmen who are now sophomores or juniors and you see how much you've helped and how much they've developed.
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