A man of integrity

Ask anyone about Greg Betts and the first thing that comes to mind is his willingness to stop everything he is doing to help others. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will find out as fast as he can and give you the answer. Whether it’s a hug or words of wisdom, Betts always has the perfect remedy.

He has held many titles as a coach in the community.

He was the Silver Creek wrestling coach before being the assistant coach at Fredonia High School the past 18 years. He was an assistant football coach, a track and field assistant coach and ran the kids wrestling and football programs. Many of those years, Betts coached as a volunteer.

To all of his former athletes and peers, they are happy to call him a friend.

At the end of the school year, Betts will embark on the next chapter of his life as he is set to retire.

“I know a lot of people that claim to be Christians,” Fredonia head wrestling coach Alex Conti said. “I feel that my Christian faith is very important to me. But when I look at Greg Betts, he walks the walk. He treats people the way they should be treated. He gives when he doesn’t have to give. He opens his house for any kind of team gathering – spaghetti parties, pizza parties. He was always there to give.”

Being an assistant coach is sometimes an under-appreciated position, but his work with – and for – local youth surely hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst his peers.

Betts has been in charge of all the paperwork such as stats, accident reports and making sure players are eligible.

“People don’t know how much effort it takes to take care of the some of the things he is responsible for,” Conti said.

“There were days he wouldn’t come to practice because he had so much paperwork. He would come for the 15-minute speech before practice and then go back to his computer and input all the computer stuff. Wrestling has become more and more of that monster and he was responsible for that as well.”

In 2001, Southwestern wrestler Jim Nelson was considered one of the best in his weight class in the state. Nelson had the work ethic any coach would dream to have. However, during matches, Nelson would look winded and was unable to finish. While Southwestern was holding a joint practice with Fredonia, Betts noticed Nelson was holding his breath during takedowns.

“Greg worked with him on breathing techniques and how to slow it down,” former Southwestern wrestling coach Walt Thurnau recalled from his home in Eastern Kentucky. “It paid dividends when Jimmy won a state title. Jimmy was able to turn the tables when it really counted. A great deal has to go to Greg Betts. He really helped him. Jimmy was able to push a lot harder than the other kid thanks to Greg.”

“I firmly believe, if you ask Nelson, that was the monumental point in his career that gave him a run to a state championship,” Conti added. “Would he have won it anyway? Possibly. But it wouldn’t have been in that dominant fashion.”

While Betts could be seen coaching, what wasn’t seen were the countless hours of paperwork Betts did behind the scenes. Thurnau noted he still receives scores and match results from Betts.

“I don’t think people in Fredonia wrestling know how important he is,” Conti responded when asked if the general public is aware of the contributions Betts has made. “They see this great teddy bear of a guy who isn’t afraid to give a hug. They have no idea. The only people who have an idea are my other assistant coaches. Greg does all those things I don’t have the patience to do time after time after time. I think the kids don’t realize what he does. Sometimes I point it out. Sometimes they are disrespectful because he is assistant coach. When you pull them aside and ask, ‘Do you see what he does for you? Let’s think about this.’ Then they feel bad and know they should have handled it better because Betts has been there for them every step of the way. Who do they go to see during school? They talk to Betts because he loves them.”

Former Fredonia football coach Bob Ball has worked with Betts for the last 16 years and has watched kids gravitate towards the “teddy bear.”

“He is a very compassionate person,” Ball said. “I have never seen him tell a person ‘no’ when it comes to a favor. He will do anything for anybody. He is definitely one of those guys who is in it for the kids. His main purpose for coaching was to help kids. He is very genuine when it comes to that.”

Betts has always been there to help an athlete with a bruised ego.

“The biggest thing is when a kid gets down, so many times in sports, when things don’t go your way, he puts it into perspective,” Ball said. “He tells them, ‘It happens. It’s not the end of the world.’ He tells them how to correct it so it doesn’t happen again. He is a real teacher as a coach. There have been so many instances where I have seen him go the extra mile to help kids out.”

The respect Betts has earned isn’t just among peers and athletes. It has extended out to the officials. During wrestling matches, Betts can be seen sitting in the corner with a notepad in hand, taking notes of each match for practice purposes, as well as keeping score.

“Plenty of officials have stopped and turned to Greg and asked what he has for a score,” Conti said. “He tells them the sequence and they adjust the scoreboard so it’s correct. They know he is paying attention. It’s about what is right. We go to Rochester and those officials there are so respectful of a guy like Greg Betts. They know that he puts truth in front of victory. If it wasn’t ours to win, he understands. Winning is great, but it’s not the end result. If you can build a champion off the mat, you’re going to win for a lot more years. If we can do that, we have done OK and can feel pretty good about that.”

Conti noted he hopes athletes who Betts has touched will send their beloved coach a note of thanks.

“Hopefully they drop him a note or send him an email or Facebook message that says thanks,” Conti said. “A guy like Greg Betts could never hear that enough because he has blessed more people with who he is and how he accomplished it.”

“He has been very valuable,” Ball said. “He makes head coaching much, much easier. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. He says he is getting out of it completely. I can’t imagine him in some part of retirement not doing something with kids. He is a big teddy bear. Kids go to him, including my own. They run up and tell him stories. So many kids I have seen do that. He will definitely be missed. I don’t think Fredonia realizes how much they will miss him. He has done so many things behind the scenes you don’t realize. I know as a coach, I am going to hate to see him go.”

“I am not the only one who realizes how great Coach Betts is and how important to Fredonia’s success he has been,” Thurnau concluded. “The sport is losing a very, very, very, very valuable person. He has more than paid his dues. The sport is going to miss him.”