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Coach Doug Diel a hero for local youth sports
ARLINGTON — Maintaining a strong youth sports culture in a single community requires volunteer efforts from dozens of local sports fanatics, who rarely receive recognition for their behind-the-scenes efforts. One such man is Doug Diel, who has been involved in youth sports in Arlington for almost 20 years.
“I grew up here and even played sports from fifth grade up until my freshman year,” said Diel. “I quit playing in high school and went to work.”
Diel began work at a car dealership in downtown Arlington. Years later, he met his wife Michelle, and began to coach her sons in baseball.
“In 1996, I started coaching some of my friends’ kids and got really serious when my stepson Devin was in second grade. He is 16 now,” said Diel. “I coached Little League with Devin’s team at Stilly Valley, starting from T-ball, and then coached all the way up through two years ago.”
He also coached T-ball at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, and has coached his son Dane, 13, in basketball at Arlington AAU since he was 4 years old.
Baseball and basketball aren’t the only sports that Diel is involved with — he also coaches football.
“I’ve coached tackle football for Arlington since 2006, when I didn’t have a kid on the team and these guys were peewees. I coached all the way up to now,” he said. “This year I have the Arlington Youth Football Association’s eighth-grade team.”
Bodie Williams, one of the players who has been coached by Diel since he was a little kid, is glad to have him as his football coach again.
“There are kids that weren’t playing before, that are playing now, that he is coaching,” said Williams, 13. “It’s just because of the way he coaches. I think of Doug as a father figure and on the field he is always fun. He teaches me a lot, and since he has taught me since I was little, everything I learned, I learned from him.”
Diel’s son Dane agrees.
“He’s like one of those coaches where you can still have fun while being serious,” he said. “He really likes to win, and like Bodie said, everything I learned is from him.”
Jaren Carey, 12, believes that Diel’s connection with his players helps them gain confidence on and off the field.
“I feel like Doug is always on the field right next to me, telling me everything I need to do right before I do it. I think that’s what makes him such a good coach and what makes us good football players.”
Michelle Diel, Doug’s wife and a volunteer supporter of local youth sports, said she is always impressed with her husband’s caring and supportive attitude toward his players.
“He loves to win, but even when they don’t you’d never know the difference,” she said. “He loves the kids like they are his own. Sometimes after a loss you’ll see players on other teams hanging their heads, but that’s never the case with Doug’s players because he just won’t let them feel that way.”
Diel said it’s difficult to lose, but although he enjoys winning, it’s not his main reason for coaching.
“We’ve had some tough years,” he said. “What about our last baseball season? We never won a game. I just want them to have fun and keep playing. That’s the way I’ve always thought, that sports are really important for these kids. Not that they are all troublemakers, but if they keep busy with sports, then they aren’t getting in trouble.”
Williams said that he is glad Diel comes back to coach every year because it helps the players feel like the effort is worthwhile.
“He wants us to continue our lives with the game of football, and he feels like if he doesn’t come back, why should we?” he said.
Williams, Cary and Dane Diel are going into their final year of middle school and all three are hoping to be competitive at the high school level — in baseball, football, basketball and wrestling — when they get there, and they want to thank Diel for helping them get a good start in athletics.
“He’s just a great coach who always helps us when we need it,” said Williams.
Although her son and his teammates will soon be growing too old for youth sports, Michelle Diel believes her husband will always be looking for some way to support the community’s athletic programs.
“Doug has a grandson who is 3 years old, so I’m sure he will want to coach him,” she said. “I don’t see Doug hanging up his coaching hat anytime soon.”