Athletes who have the chance to compete at the professional level are often seen as reaching the pinnacle of their careers. But for Ohio University student Bruce Plummer, his time in the pros, while memorable, was only a moment in a lifetime commitment to giving back to his hometown of Bogalusa, LA, through the game of football.
A 1983 graduate and member of the Bogalusa High School Lumberjacks, Plummer played college ball at Mississippi State University. Selected in the 1987 NFL draft, he went on to play as a defensive back for seven seasons with teams including the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts.
Plummer also spent some time in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football league and worked as a scout for 10 years. And while his playing career took him all over the country and even across the border, he kept his hometown in his mind and heart, eventually using his NFL connections to run summer youth football camps back in Bogalusa.
The motivation to work in youth coaching comes from Plummer’s personal experience as a young athlete. “I want to help kids achieve something that they thought they probably couldn’t do, because someone gave me that opportunity when I was a kid,” says Plummer.
Plummer’s dedication brought him back to Bogalusa, where he now is the defensive backs coach for the Lumberjacks football team. He also coaches the catchers and outfielders for the baseball team. While his playing days are over, Plummer plans to grow his coaching opportunities with a Master of Coaching Education (MCE) degree from Ohio University.
The program only takes about two years to complete and the classes are in seven-week increments, Plummer says, “so you get down to the nitty gritty stuff and you can get it done.”
The convenient online format also lets Plummer obtain a degree while still working a full-time job.
“I can do the reading while I’m at school when I get a break. And when I get home I can read and I can just do it at home, which is really good for me,” says Plummer. “I teach all day and I coach all day. By the time I get home, 6 or 7 o’clock, I always devote maybe two to two and a half hours to my Ohio University studies.”
Currently in his fourth class, Plummer already sees the benefits of Ohio University’s MCE program.
“A lot of guys who played can’t coach because you have to know how to coach,” says Plummer. “What this program does is it teaches you a lot of the buzz words, a lot of stuff that you thought you knew that you didn’t know about coaching.”
The importance of knowing the correct lingo inspires Plummer to recall one of his most memorable moments as a high school football coach.
During his first year, he was the school’s first special teams coach. Thinking back to his NFL days, he decided to teach the kids about right returns and left returns, which are often called by the receiving team during a kickoff. The kids resisted implementing the new techniques.
“The kids didn’t believe in themselves because all the other stuff they had tried didn’t work,” recalls Plummer. “I said, ‘Look, guys. If you guys trust in me and just believe what I’m telling you, I’m going to show you. We’re going to walk through this stuff during the week and when we do it on Fridays, it’s going to be like turning over one hand and seeing the other hand, and it’s going to be a whole lot easier.”
So the team practiced left returns and right returns all week. When game day arrived, the kids asked Plummer which direction they are going to go with — right return or left return. And he told them to go right return.
“The guys said, ‘You think we can do this?’ I said, ‘Yeah, man. Look, we practiced on this stuff. Let’s just go outside and let’s do it to perfection.’ The ball kicked off and just like clockwork, everywhere I told those kids to go, those right places, they were in place. Boom. We ran a touchdown.”
“When you saw the smile on those kids’ faces it was like, ‘Wow, man. We did something. Coach said we could do it, and we did it,’” says Plummer.
“That’s the thing about coaches — getting kids to believe in stuff that they can do even though they think they can’t do it,” says Plummer. “That brings the joy to you on the inside and it brings a joy to their face.”
“It could be five, 10, 15 years later you’ll see those kids and they’ll say, ‘Hey, Coach. You remember that time you had us practice on that kickoff and we ran it back for a touchdown?’ I said, ‘I sure did.’ Because kids always remember.”
Plummer hopes to continue creating those moments and sees his degree from OHIO as central to furthering his coaching career.
“It teaches you everything you need to know about coaching,” Plummer says about the program. “It teaches you the buzz words. It teaches you the lessons. It teaches you about coaching domains, about linear, non-linear, coaching pedagogy — all these things that I didn’t know about that are involved in coaching. Ohio University, with these books and with these lessons, has brought that out in me.”
About Ohio University’s Master of Coaching Education (MCE) Online Program
Ohio University’s online Master of Coaching Education program includes curriculum on management, psychology, and leadership. Students are offered the skills and abilities to focus on the future of coaching and develop new competencies.
The program’s convenient online format means students can avoid the career disruptions that may come with a traditional classroom setting. For more information, visit Ohio University’s MCE page.