Middle school gym to be dedicated in honor of coach

  • George Pinkham talks about his time as a physical education teacher at Bow Middle School and as the Bow varsity boys' soccer coach from his home in Henniker on Dec. 7. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • George Pinkham looks at an old photo from his time as a soccer player from his home in Henniker on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. The Bow school board voted to name the middle school gym after Pinkham, a long time physical education teacher and varsity boys' soccer coach. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 12/24/2016 12:22:44 PM

George Pinkham coached and taught many athletes during over four decades of service at the Bow School District.

But there is one student who stands out in his memory because of a different skill.

David Milazzo was not the least bit athletic, Pinkham remembered, and would get frustrated during gym class. Instead, Milazzo was a gifted saxophone player, even at his young age.

In the gym, Pinkham didn’t expect everyone to be an athlete. He wanted everyone, athlete or not, to do their best.

“I kept telling him, ‘Don’t ever change yourself,’” he said. “ ‘Work on the talent you have, which many others don’t. Some day, you’re going to make your parents proud.’”

Milazzo went on to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, and Pinkham has since retired, although he continues to coach Bow High School’s boys varsity soccer team.

His dedication to getting the best out of students, whether on the soccer fields where he  coached for 30 years, or in life, was enough to have the Bow School Board name the middle school gym after Pinkham in November. The dedication ceremony will happen sometime next year; and the gym will bear his name for 10 years.

Lasting impressions

Though the naming may be temporary, the impression Pinkham left on his students and athletes clearly was not, as the board received over 30 letters and emails on the subject of renaming the gym after Pinkham, according to district documents. Not all were in favor of the proposal: some said the decision would be unfair to other deserving teachers when they retired, and called the decision premature. Others were more critical of Pinkham himself.

But the majority of notes from parents and former students praised Pinkham’s leadership throughout the years.

“George has been a loyal servant to the school district and the community for many years, and has been a pillar of leadership and support for many, especially in the face of tragedy when it strikes,” wrote Matthew Ghelli, who graduated from Bow High in 2003.

Others were more brief. “You have my vote,” wrote 2012 graduate Bradford Clark. “He deserves the best.”

Pinkham also has a host of official recognitions under his belt, including four state soccer championship titles and six runner-up seasons. He’s been the N.H. Soccer Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year four times, and was inducted into the organization’s hall of fame twice. He’s also been the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Mondo’s Coach of the Year twice.

Pinkham, 62, attributed his longevity in the field to his students. “The kids are really what keep you going,” he said. “Age is something you feel, and kids make me feel young.”

Expecting the best

It’s easy, Pinkham said, to equate athletics with gym class, but the key to being a successful teacher and coach is recognizing the difference between the two. “I don’t want to teach kids to dribble a ball or shoot a basket,” Pinkham said. “That’s sports. In the gym, I just want you to be active.”

That meant doing activities that were accessible to students of all physical abilities, such as floor hockey and big-ball volleyball, or simply going for a walk. 

“When you have kids who could care less about being on a team, or aren’t physically coordinated in the least, what do you do with them in the gym?” he said. “. . . I never had a problem with kids wanting to be in the gym. If anything, they complained about not having enough time.”  

Pinkham said he tried to teach students two lessons in the gym and on the field. First, if you give your best, you can’t fault yourself. Second, the importance of winning and losing gracefully.

“I didn’t want any excuses, sour grapes, bragging, or any of that,” he said. “I wouldn’t put up with that in the gym or as a soccer coach.”

Pinkham acknowledged he has not been a success with all parents, and said most friction between coaches and parents stems from the amount of playing time a child receives. And while it can be difficult, Pinkham said the key to being an effective coach is to be totally honest with players about how he views their abilities. That can mean telling a student they may never start a game or cutting a player from the team, a decision he said is never easy. But for those who stick it out, talent or not, he still expects their best.

Pinkham said he has developed his philosophy with the tutelage of other teachers and coaches, including his brother, Gilford High School boys’ varsity soccer coach David Pinkham. And while his physical education days are behind him, Pinkham anticipates he will continue to learn from his students and peers.

“If you get to the point where you think you know everything, you’re going to be in trouble,” he said. 

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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