PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - It started as an attempt to find closure after a beloved student passed away. But Brett Merrill’s therapeutic exercise grew bigger than he could ever imagine.
In his new book - which is called “Hey, Coach” - Merrill shares a glimpse into the life of a teacher, shaping the youth of South Mississippi.
Brett Merrill is a busy man. He’s a PE teacher for Central Elementary School in Pascagoula. He is the wide receivers coach for the high school football team, and he’s the head golf coach for the Panthers.
But he never viewed himself as a writer. In fact, he hated it growing up. But in March, a tragedy would force him to pick up the craft.
“Back in March, when we were quarantined and sent home from school, I had a kid here who played golf here for me at Pascagoula High School for five years, and he died in a car wreck,” said Coach Merrill.
His phone was soon flooded with texts and calls, many of them former student athletes seeking answers and asking for help.
“I had kids calling me ‘Coach,’ ‘Hey Coach, what do we do?’ ‘How do we handle this?’ and I didn’t have an answer. And so we really had a hard time dealing with it.”
Merrill was struggling. One friend suggested he write a letter to the late student. With the prompt being, “If you could tell him one more thing, what would you say?” He found the exercise helpful in dealing with his emotions. Family and friends encouraged him to continue.
“I just started writing, every night, every day. I put my little girl down for a nap or for bed and I would type or write until I had nothing left to say. 35,000 words later I said, ‘I got a lot of stuff here. I need to figure out what I am going to do with it.’”
It was soon organized into chapters and made available to the public.
Inside is Merrill’s heart and soul. It is a glimpse into the passion that many teachers tackle each day with, as well as a look at some of the lessons he hopes to instill in students.
Lessons like, “Don’t talk about it. Be about it” and the 3 L’s of life.
"The three L’s are live, love and lose. Live life to the fullest. Love blindly and purely. And take every loss as opportunity of growth..
It’s that mindset that makes Coach Brett Merrill South Mississippi Strong.