52 Years of Friendship, Leadership & Laughter: Lessons from My Dad and Coach Kieffer

52 Years of Friendship, Leadership & Laughter: Lessons from My Dad and Coach Kieffer

Sitting down to interview my 80-year-old dad, Bob Bauerle, and his best friend of over 52 years, John Kieffer, I knew I was in for some stories. What I didn't anticipate was the profound life and leadership lessons woven through their decades of coaching together.

From their first meeting on the practice field at Patrick Henry High School in 1973 when Kiefer was just 22, to their final (and still painful) playoff loss, to weekly calls even now in retirement - their friendship has been a constant. And wow, has it made an impact far beyond the football field!

I watched these two men, in a way that only those who have walked through the best and worst of life together can, finish each other's sentences, laugh until they cried (the station wagon motorcycle rescue is worth asking them about!), and share hard-earned wisdom:
Lead with the positive. "PMA baby!" was their mantra - Positive Mental Attitude. They didn't shame mistakes, they celebrated effort and potential. And it turned losing teams into champions.

When adversity strikes, pull together. From levies and budget cuts to player tragedies, they had each other's backs and became rocks their community could lean on.

Empower the young to lead. Kiefer went from rookie coach to defensive coordinator under dad's mentorship. Dad gave him space to learn, grow and put his stamp on things, building Kiefer's confidence.

Never stop strategizing ways to better serve your team. I thought I'd escape football talk for once. Nope! These guys live for dreaming up new plays and formations to help their guys succeed against tough odds.

Invest in relationships. 52 years of friendship means showing up, in the little moments and the big ones. Making the call, having the tough talks, celebrating the wins, and sticking with it.

As a son, I watched how dad and Kiefer formed a bond closer than many brothers, a bond that shaped generations of student-athletes and the trajectory of communities who faced hardship. I felt, and still feel, Kiefer's impact as a second father.

As a leadership coach myself now, I see two men ahead of their time, who knew that winning on the field started with connecting heart-to-heart. Who modeled integrity, grit and care in a way that drew out the best in others.

In a world where leadership can be reduced to soundbites and quick fixes, dad and Kiefer are a testament to the truth that leadership is a lifelong journey of inner growth and outer service. One that's meant to be shared with friends who become family. Just like them.

Dad, happy 81st birthday! Thank you for the gift of a friendship that scored the ultimate touchdown in my life. Kiefer was right when he said "I would have loved to have a dad like your dad." I'm immeasurably grateful I do.

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1 Comment

  1. Dane,

    Phenomenal questions for two people who have been so influential in your life. Bob and John are two of my all-time favorite people. Individually and collectively, they have more integrity than any two people I've ever met. Happy Birthday, Bob.

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