If you went to high school at William Chrisman in the decades of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, you will be very familiar with the name Coach Bill Summa.
Everyone whoever came into contact with Coach Summa, I am sure, will have a story to tell. For more than 30 years, he taught history and was an assistant football coach and head track coach for the Bears. The man bleeds blue and gold.
On April 5, 2019, the Independence School District is going to name the track at William Chrisman after Summa. This will be at the running of the Bill Summa William Chrisman Relays that is hosted annually at the high school. Coach has had the school’s relays named after him for several years. He was also inducted into the Missouri Track Coaches Hall of Fame at the end of his career.
All of these tremendous honors are very justified and well earned. But Coach Summa was much more than just a coach and teacher to thousands of young people that he came into contact during his career. Coach taught everyone the real important things of life and how life’s lessons are the real things you learn from being in a classroom or on the athletic field.
Coach did not care about race or religion; he only judged young people on the important things of life. He was a personal example of hard work, dedication, loyalty and unselfishness.
Coach was always for the underdog. He grew-up in a rural setting and he did not have a lot of material wealth, but he was rich in the important things of life. He made thousands of boy and girls better men and women by the lessons he taught every day.
My father and mother were very close friends with Bill and Peggy, so I had a ringside seat on watching behind the scenes of just what a great heart Coach had for his students. Many times, Coach Summa and Peggy would provide school clothes and shoes for poorer students who needed the help to fit into the regular student population.
I could write a book on all the life lessons he taught all of us. To say that Coach Bill Summa was “old school” would be one of the understatements of my life. He demanded your best, both in the classroom and on the athletic field. I am sure that Coach has been a living example of a person who worked hard for everything he got in his life, and he really drove that point home to his students and athletes.
Bill Summa could never be called a hypocrite in anything he has ever believed in. If you ask him a question, he will give you an answer that you may not be ready to hear. His word was his bond, and you did not have to ask about any hidden meaning.
I see Coach twice a month and we laugh about political correctness, and he will admit that has never been his strong suit. He showed me a letter he got from an ex-student last Christmas that really says it all. In the letter, the former student talked about how he would not have gotten a high school diploma if Coach Summa had not helped him believe in himself.
The student had learning difficulties and he felt like no one at the school even cared about him. Then he got the break of his life when Coach Summa became his history teacher. He talked about how Coach made him feel important and that someone actually cared about him as a person. He said that Coach was the right person at the right time of his life. He made the difference.
The Relays will start the running events around 1 p.m., and they will honor coach with the naming of the track around 4:30. Hopefully a lot of the old Bears will be there to honor a man who helped so many become better people. I am sure Coach would like to thank the William Chrisman administration and the Independence School District and Board of Education for this great honor.
• My quote of the week appropriately comes from Coach Bill Summa: “Life is not about how much money you have or how famous you are, it is about how many people you help become better people along the way.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.