News: Meet Your Mentor Part 1: The Constant Motivator
Story by Staff Sgt. Jes Smith
FORT BLISS, Texas – The hours are long and the pay is nonexistent, but those who volunteer to mentor children, always seem to answer with, ‘the reward far exceeds the sacrifice.’
One of those mentors is Sgt. 1st Class Howard J. Baity, an observer/controller trainer with the 1st Training Support Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, 1st Army Division West, and he has been a volunteer coach in the local area for the past seven years.
While his history with track and field helps him as a coach – Baity competed in high school track in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., and competed in hurdles for Hinds Community College, Raymond, Miss. – he does not believe it to be a necessity in order to be a volunteer coach.
“You don’t have to have experience in a sport to coach,” said Baity. “It helps, but if not, there are plenty of people willing to teach you everything you need to know. You really just need an interest to work with kids and the rest always gets figured out.”
Early in his military career, Baity volunteered to coach youth basketball, but got involved with Junior Olympic Track and Field after moving to Fort Bliss. At age 7 his daughter, Candace Baity, decided to follow in her father’s footsteps by competing in track and field for a local private track club, which prompted him to get involved as well by volunteering to coach the team. They spent three years with the club before moving over to the Team Bliss Track Club, where he has coached and she has competed for the past four years.
Since joining Team Bliss, Candace has qualified and competed in the last four Junior Olympic National Championship Track and Field Meets, joining a multitude of additional athletes coached by Baity and Team Bliss. Last year while competing for her junior high school track team as an 8th grader, she won her first state championship by taking the gold in the long-jump event.
Over the past three years Team Bliss has won six national championships and earned an additional 59 medals for top-eight finishes at national meets.
“I love coaching with Team Bliss,” said Baity. “We turn no one away. I believe there are a lot of kids who live below the poverty line who have been able to compete and travel with the team because of support that other teams in the area don’t have.”
Coaching for the club usually takes up Baity’s evenings and weekends often traveling out of town for regional and national track meets. He can only attend these events because of the support received from his command.
Baity said that his commander and supervisors follow his team as he coaches year-round: first volunteering for track and field and then moving almost immediately into the cross-county season. Through the year they support him by not just approving leave days, but also with moving duty requirements to different days in order to free up him up to coach.
“I think that the overall outcome of having the future of these United States being positively affected by such a great (non-commissioned officer) is worth having to re-work scheduling on my end,” said Capt. Marcel M. Hickman, an Air Defense Artillery Officer, with 1st TSB, 362nd ADAR, who supervises Baity’s work schedule. “He has limited personal time and his volunteering shows true dedication.”
Hickman, an El Paso, Texas, native, added he would welcome having more mentors like Baity in the unit because it sets the example for other Soldiers in the unit as to the positive rewards of volunteering.
He went on to say that children are the future of America and that time given by mentors like Baity goes a long way to ensure that an American future will be a successful one.
The time Baity spends mentoring and coaching these children often leads to the long lasting relationships most people who devote time to children enjoy as the children grow up and move on in life.
Alexis N. Copeland, age 12, a member of the track club, said Baity has always done a great job motivating her to get better every day, and she wants him to coach her for as long as he can. Her intent was most evident when she followed him from the private team that he was coaching to Team Bliss, along with many other athletes.
This move has been very successful for Copeland. Since joining Team Bliss, she is regarded as not only one of the best 400 and 800 meter sprinters in El Paso, but also warrants recognition on a regional and national level.
“Coach Baity always encourages me and everyone to work hard and never give up,” said Copeland. “I will always keep in touch with coach Baity, so I can let him know how hard I am working to get better and to let him know everything that I am accomplishing in my running career.”
Baity said this close relationship with his athletes is important to him but he also gains satisfaction from providing the kind of attention that his high school coach was never able to give him.
“When I was younger I coached myself,” said Baity. “I had a coach, but there were too many of us; he just didn’t have the time to get to us all, and I believe that if he had the time, he would have.”
One of those athletes getting Baity’s attention is Gabriel Martell, an El Paso native who was affectionately described by Baity as a runner who came in last every time his first season, but never quit, getting better every season, and eventually becoming not only a winner, but a cross-country star in the city with several colleges looking to offer him scholarships.
“I was scrawny,” said Martell, age 18. “When I started out I wasn’t the best, but every year I pushed harder and harder and wanted it more and more. Throughout all that, coach Baity was there to tell me I had the potential. Even though he was my coach he was also my biggest motivator, my biggest fan.”
Martell stopped competing in summer track for Team Bliss two years ago to focus on his cross-country high school career, but said that he missed the team and the coaching staff so much that last summer, between his junior and senior year, he came back to the team as a coach.
While coaching for the team, Martell worked with the long-distance runners and drew often on lessons taught to him by Baity.
“I’ve always respected his motivating style of coaching,” said Martell. “I took a lot from what he taught me and added a bit of myself. Coach Baity and the other coaches supported me the whole summer and it was a great experience. My kids were super motivated and it was great to be part of a coaching staff that has always been there for me and my career.”
Most recently Martell ran in a regional meet for his high school cross-country team, performing poorly but still qualifying for the upcoming state meet. Afterward he was sure to call his old coach.
“Coach Baity’s advice was to tell me I still had another shot at state to perform like we both know I can,” said Martell. “He is always encouraging to me about my potential and level of talent, never focusing on the negatives.”
Team Bliss Track Club is one of the many teams sponsored by the Fort Bliss Child, Youth and School Services sports program located at building 1743 on main Fort Bliss. CYSS offers a multitude of sports year round for military and civilian families in the area. For information on volunteer opportunities or to register a child for a sport dial (915) 568-4374 or visit www.blissmwr.com/cys.