How a coach's battle with ALS motivates the Lake Oswego football - KPTV - FOX 12

How a coach's battle with ALS motivates the Lake Oswego football team

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It's that time of year again, football season, and motivating players goes hand-in-hand with coaching.

In this week's High School Spotlight, FOX 12 met a coach whose personal battle is all the motivation the Lake Oswego football team needs.

Wednesday's for the Lake Oswego football team is the day they lift weights, go through a film session and then pause to reflect, hearing the words from their motivational coach, Jeff Young.

"September 18th, 2015. The opponent: West Linn. The only way to pass any test, it to take the test," Coach Young told the team. "Opportunities are fleeting. So when they knock, you better kick open the door and seize them by the throat. A monstrous opportunity comes knocking for us Friday night."

Back in 1980, Young was a senior star running back for Lake Oswego. 3 years later, while playing football at Southern Oregon, Young was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gherig's disease.

At the time, he was told it would likely take his life within 3 years. That was almost 32 years ago.

Each day is a struggle. He's confined to a wheelchair, needs a full time caregiver and help with everything from getting up in the morning, to eating.

While the disease may have robbed him physically, it hasn't impacted his mind.

Every Sunday, Coach Young meets with the rest of the coaches as they prepare for the week. He gathers ideas for his Wednesday message to the team. 

This week's theme is opportunity.

"We get the chance to seize a blessed opportunity by the throat and descend this message to the entire state; the Lake Oswego nightmare is back and will be visiting you soon. You want to be the best? Then you have to beat the best. Right now fingers are pointing at West Linn as the best. We can change that," said Coach Young.

Players in Lake Oswego's locker room sit silently, hanging onto each carefully crafted word. For his speech, Young needs the help of a specialized computer, which he labors over painstakingly for days just to write a single page.

FOX 12 asked Coach Young why this week's focus was on opportunity.

"Most kids that play high school football really never get to play in a game this big. This is what we play for. They'll remember it forever. If you have an opportunity, you better grab it," said Coach Young.

Coach Young has been writing the inspirational message of the week for the past eight seasons. In the past couple years, Lake Oswego has started the Coach Young Leadership Group, which includes Quarterback Mitchell Verberg.

"Whenever we're feeling down we think about him and what he's going through. It really shows how much we take for granted and the things we have in life that are important to us," said Verberg.

Lake Oswego Head Coach Steve Coury said when he thinks of Coach Young the words mentally tough come to mind.

"It takes him two hours to get ready and come here and be at practice and come to the meetings. It's just incredible, the mental toughness he has to want to get up every day to be honest. I've talked to him many times and said, 'I don't think I could do it'," said Coach Coury.

Coach Young said he plans to keep writing his weekly message as long as he can and as long as he feels he's contributing.

"As long as the kids are taking it in and listening," said Coach Young.

Looking at the faces in Lake Oswego's locker room, it's safe to say they are.

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