When Tim McGraw first began as the North Lake College basketball coach, he juggled evening practices with his duties as an elementary school PE teacher. Since that beginning, though, McGraw’s NLC Blazers have won three national championships.
Success came quickly and has been long-lasting, but Coach McGraw doesn’t take it for granted. “I feel grateful,” he says. He works even harder than he did in the beginning, on and off the court.
The first time McGraw’s Blazers made the national tournament, in 2000, he was teaching middle schoolers in addition to coaching college basketball. Running practice after a day’s work was tough, but McGraw’s team inspired him. “Those players worked so hard and were so enthusiastic that they got me excited.” That year the Blazers earned fourth place in the nation.
The best was yet to come. In 2006, 2008, and 2017 Coach McGraw’s Blazers were crowned national champions. They’re annual title contenders.
But winning isn’t everything. Since becoming a full-time coach in 2001, Tim McGraw’s main goal has been helping his players grow as athletes and as human beings. “You are their academic advisor, you are their friend, and their parent sometimes.” McGraw will help with anything, from roommate troubles to passing classes, from teamwork skills to finding housing.
“I love every one of my responsibilities. Recruiting athletes, teaching classes, advising students, and coaching basketball keep me busy and challenged.”
When Tim McGraw teaches persistence, he speaks as an expert. As a child, he built his own backboard from plywood. His family was not supportive – “I come from the most unathletic group of people on the earth” – until they realized that “basketball kept me out of trouble.” When McGraw never grew tall enough to play varsity, he could have given up, but became a coach instead, leading his first team at age 12.
Now he instills that work ethic in new generations. “I want to teach our players to have persistence and to play as a team. We make a very assertive effort to recruit kids who can achieve strong academics.” The team even holds group study hall sessions.
The persistence and determination McGraw teaches his students are traits he shows in his example. And he also tries to communicate his thankfulness for a chance to do what he loves, and an opportunity to lead national champions. “First and foremost,” McGraw says, “I believe athletes need to learn to be grateful. I am.”