Nykolas Alford, a junior at Southeast Lauderdale High School, wrote this tribute to basketball coach Johnny Patrick in December. In it, Nykolas takes an honest look at himself — and how he came to appreciate the man who stayed “on his case” until it worked.

My attitude at Southeast has changed from “outstanding” to “good” to “OK” to “bad” — and now to “worse.” I guess it’s because I want to be grown and do my own thinking.

My father always told me that I never want to listen to anyone and my mouth will get me into trouble.

In 2004, my new basketball coach, Johnny Patrick, came into my life. He was my exact opposite. I felt like we would never get along. He was always on my case about everything I’ve done wrong.

I was so angry with him, but then I realized that if I wanted to prove myself, then I had to change my attitude and keep myself positive. It seemed like the more I tried to change my attitude, the worse it got.

Soon, I wasn’t getting in the game at all. That really made me furious. Coach told me that day that if I have an attitude problem, then I need to go on home. That really hit me in the heart. I was thinking, was he really going to send me home if I didn’t get my act right?

I decided then that I must control myself and turn all my anger into energy so could play more aggressively.

I still don’t play as much as I would love to, but at least Coach Patrick is recognizing that I’m trying my best to play hard and control my attitude. I heard him say one day that the difference between me and some others is that I really want to play and that I have been improving. That made me feel so much better about myself.

Now it’s 2005 and I’m still not playing as much as I want to, but one thing I can say is that Coach Patrick — whether he knows it or not — has changed the way I respond to things. Thanks to him, I’ve been giving 100 percent in every little thing I do.

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