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Spirit: Team player: Nick Means guides kids in sports, life

By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post

It’s a fiercely competitive basketball game. Players are 7 to 9 years old. Coach Nick Means runs the court the whole game, mostly backward. He’s got a team to support.

“I coach because I love kids and I love sports. It’s about that simple,” Means says, beaming his trademark smile. “Sports gives me the opportunity to help kids in sports but also teach life lessons. Individually, we’re all part of something better than ourselves. When you’re part of a team and you’re not at your best, you’re negatively impacting the group as a whole.”

Means is the training and development officer at F&M Bank. He was an all-regional and all-conference football player at Catawba College and was inducted into the school’s football hall of fame in 2002. He grew up in a close-knit family in Thomasville. Both parents graduated from N.C. A&T State University.

“I grew up privileged,” he says. “There was a philanthropic spirit, with my grandfather being a pastor, my dad, a coach, and my mom, a teacher. All I saw was them serving others. At college, Coach Bennett preached community service — and that was the spirit at Catawba.

“This organization (F&M) holds the same values. Steve Fisher got me into coaching here. I enjoyed it. I feel like a lot of times, the most vulnerable people are the ones we forget. Often that’s our youth. When they raise themselves and make the best decisions they can for themselves, based on their limited experience, then we have not done the things we need to do, to provide the guidance they need.”

Means has a way of crediting others in his life for his accomplishments. He says Coach Mark Woody told him something he never forgot: “Be who you needed when you were younger.”

Alex Clark said, “Learn what you can, share what you can, while you can, because if you don’t share your talents, you waste them, and you’ve wasted your energy.”

“Things can change in the blink of an eye,” Means says.

Means’ best friend was shot on campus at Catawba on a night he’ll never forget. Means had just left a party and was headed back to his dorm when he heard shots.

“I grew up in a good home in a great small town rich in tradition. Everybody knew everybody,” he says. “It gave me the foundation to come here to Catawba and get a free education through sports. While I was there, a terrible event happened, but the values instilled in me since the day I was born carried me. When I dealt with it, it went from a burden to a blessing. I didn’t lose a best friend; I gained a guardian angel. It’s the whole tragedy-to-triumph story. I don’t want anybody to look at this and feel sorry for me. It gave me the strength to become a better person.”

Means is 6 feet tall and lanky; he weighs just what he weighed in college, 175 pounds. His hand rests on a worn black leather notebook where he keeps notes — real notes in his tiny handwriting, with important parts highlighted. He’s recently read “Motivation Manifest” and “The Twelve Universal Laws of Success.”

“I read a chapter first, then I go back and make notes. So basically I do the book twice.”

Another brilliant smile.

He serves on boards and commissions throughout Rowan County and coaches at North Rowan High School as well as Hall’s Gym.

“Accolades don’t matter. I think in our society we have made everything about accolades. Because we’ve done that, that becomes the goal. So I’m reluctant to talk about any accomplishments. The only accomplishment I care about is that smile I see on a kid’s face. The smile on my daughter’s face. No trophy, no plaque, no amount of money can top that. Regardless of money, car, house, when we’re stretched out in front of that altar, people only care how we made them feel.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the time to mention I couldn’t do anything I’ve done without the people in my life to support my and allow me the time to do that. My family, including Lacardo, Patty, Kristy, Denee, Shayla — the reason I name those people, a lot of times people give me a lot of credit. Without these people, I’m not who I am. There are many others, but those right there are my backbone.

“I say it jokingly, but it’s the God-honest truth: When it’s all said and done and I retire or die, I want someone to say their life is better because I was a part of it.”

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