VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) - A long-tenured boys basketball coach from Prairie High School missed out on most of last season with a major health event, but now Coach Kyle Brooks is back with hopes that hoops will also return.
Eleven months since last putting his coaching sneakers on the court, Brooks began his 21st season at Prairie High School as the masked Falcon leader of men in pods of six.
It's a blessing too for the beloved head coach who started 2020 fighting for his life.
"It's just hard to get back on your feet," Brooks said.
Coach Brooks was down for more than three months in hospitals and the ManorCare Nursing Facility learning to walk and talk after spending all of January paralyzed and on a ventilator with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.
"It really humbles you and makes you look at things a little different," said Brooks.
The 59-year-old is coaching and golfing through the nerve pain. Encouragement through patience is also what he's preaching during the Falcons' socially distanced time in the gym and teaching to his Physical Education classes on Zoom.
"With COVID and being remote, as hard as that is and wanting to be at school with the kids and be in the gym, it’s been interesting because of the time that has given me to heal and ease back into it in, some ways, has been really good for me," Brooks said.
Coach leaned on faith and family to motivate himself to get back in the game, sharing special moments like meeting his first granddaughter in June.
"I think little things like that in life just really magnify for you and they become more important," Brooks said. "And first and foremost, I just thank the Lord because he gave me the strength to get through this and that was the biggest blessing for me. I have grown because of that, my walk with the Lord."
A first-born grandson arrives next spring, hopefully after the crimson and gold pick up some type of 2021 season to celebrate what the good ball can bring to the good people of Prairie, who assisted the Brooks family when they were in need.
"Shoot, I had 58 sick days that teachers in my district donated to me and they are anonymous. I asked, I wanted to go back and thank them and there was no way to do that," said Brooks. "I wish I could go to every person and shake their hand and thank them."
Three decades in coaching has linked Brooks to the game and that guidance in life.
"The most important relationship is player to coach. That’s where it starts to have a good basketball program," Brooks said.
The "Prairie way" kept dribbling last winter under the guidance of longtime assistant, Jimmy Tuominen.
The Prairie Class of '95 alum spent the past 13 seasons on Brooks' bench, and Tuominen was honored with the Washington Positive Coaching Award for his leadership while the head Falcon was on the mend.
"I feel like I have my partner back, my person that I spent so much time with. We coached together for so long that we’re pretty good friends," Tuominen said. "It’s part of my inner circle group so to be back in here with him and hear the ball bouncing and hear some of the things he talks about with the kids and what we are trying to focus on this year with a shortened season is pretty special."
"This year, I can’t think of anything better than to not worry about the scoreboard, who wins or loses, but let’s get everybody’s team on the court when we can and safely do it and get them back out there playing basketball," said Brooks.
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