Life lessons from a high school football coach who also runs a daycare center

Daniel Tyson plays with students during the grand reopening of Discovery Learning Academy in Northeast Washington. Tyson is also the football coach at Bell High. (Al Drago for The Washington Post)

It was the middle of the night on June 2 when Daniel Tyson woke up to a call from his security company informing him that intruders had broken into the daycare he owns in Northeast Washington.

Tyson drove to Discovery Learning Academy and found fire trucks and police officers outside — and a car-sized hole blasted through the building’s brick facade.

“At this point I’m devastated,” said Tyson, 43, who founded the company with his mother in 2021. “I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

When the crashed limousine was parked in the middle of a toddler’s playroom – luckily no children were present – officers told Tyson that the accident occurred as part of a police pursuit of a suspected car thief.

Tyson, Bell High’s football coach for 16 years, thought about his team. The Griffins had been preparing for a seven-on-seven tournament the next day, and Tyson knew he had to cancel it. He texted the news to his players and received an outpouring of support from his athletes and their families.

Two days later he was back on the field for training and putting together his squad for the season. To his players, it was just the latest example of a coach known for going beyond the call of duty and using an off-field challenge as an opportunity to teach his team how to deal with adversity.

The lessons Tyson shared in the locker room have become an indistinguishable part of the team culture, expressed by every player in mottos and mantras.

“He said we were the reason,” senior running back James Stephens said. “It hangs all over our dressing room. Be the reason we win this year. be the reason we do things right.”

Another life lesson from Tyson, taught by junior wide receiver Jayden Watts: “If you want to buy things without looking at the price, you have to go to work without looking at the clock.”

Those lessons in hard work, resilience, composure, good grades and punctuality attracted several players to join Bell’s (7-2) team, which plays Anacostia in the DC Interscholastic Athletic Association Stripes conference semifinals on Thursday.

Tyson — who spent a year scouting locations, organizing finances and securing licenses to open two Discovery Learning Academy locations during the coronavirus pandemic — often takes his own lessons to heart. The sight of broken glass and the smell of burning rubber around his building put a damper on all his hard work. Compared to football, it was a somewhat familiar feeling.

According to Tyson, Bell is one of the most consistent football teams in D.C. But it has always barely managed to advance to the DCIAA’s upper Stars Division, where teams have historically had to win back-to-back titles to advance.

Last year, Coolidge won the Gravy Bowl and promotion was at stake.

DC High School Football: Stars and Stripes and lots of criticism

“We spent years and years finishing second to everyone else,” Tyson said. “… We saw two teams, Eastern and Roosevelt, advance to the Stars without us, and that was demoralizing for our program.”

As of 2014, there have been four consecutive Gravy Bowl losses. Then there was Roosevelt’s heartbreaking, last-second Hail Mary in 2017 that dashed Bell’s hopes. The Griffins ultimately won their first Gravy Bowl title in 2018, but failed to make it to the championship game the following year. They won against Coolidge again in 2021 and then lost in the rematch last year.

Tyson thought he had had enough and announced after the game that he was stepping down as coach. However, it turns out that leaving your team behind is harder than repairing a six-foot hole in a wall.

“To be honest, I cried when he announced it to us in the locker room,” said sophomore Chris Palmer, adding that he was thinking about leaving the team. “It was my first year with him and he gave me a really good experience.”

Tyson changed course – partly because he realized there was no viable option for his replacement, and partly because of all the people asking him to reconsider.

“I changed my mind,” Tyson said. “I learned a valuable lesson: When you lose the game and it’s so tiring and tiring and you put so much work into it, I have to slow down and not make a decision like that that day. I need to breathe and think about it.”

Tyson said this year that he wouldn’t consider retirement until after the season was over. But he’s also more aware than ever that he can pass on what he’s learned as a coach and entrepreneur to train a team of leaders whenever a decision comes up.

“I pray I get another year with Coach Tyson,” said Deaundre Jones-Williams, 29, receivers coach and special teams coordinator. “I feel like I still have a lot to learn from him, but I also learned a lot about leading a team.”

Tyson works year-round organizing learning spaces, behavioral education and Black entrepreneurship classes. Last summer, he enrolled the team in a course on promoting healthy relationships with women sponsored by Becky’s Fund, a domestic violence prevention organization.

He’s also open about the challenges of owning a business while juggling his coaching duties – pursuits that wake him up early and keep him busy until 9 p.m

“We see how much time he puts in and how great he is at both. It inspires us that I can have a business and also do something else,” senior defensive end Josh Hancock said.

“He taught me and other teammates how to be a man,” senior Khalil Malloy said. “He talks a lot about adversity. It’s like his favorite word. “You have to fight through adversity.” Teachers will give you adversity. “The people at work will give me adversity.” ”

This is an especially busy month for Tyson as he completes final inspections, approves the reopening of his daycare and tries to lead the Griffins through the playoffs. Thanks to a rule change that allows teams to advance with two Gravy Bowl wins in three years, Bell has another chance to advance.

“I always felt like I owed something to Bell because he changed my life,” said Tyson, who transferred to the school as a student in 1996; The extra attention he received helped him turn a failing grade into a spot on the honor roll. “… Some people might say that in all the years we lost, we maximized our potential. And then some might say that we simply failed. For us it’s more about what happens after you fail, what happens when you lose and it seems like you can never win.

“That’s one of the legacies I want to leave with this program – as many times as we failed, we got back up.” Life lessons from a high school football coach who also runs a daycare center

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