After you’ve been around people enough, you understand their element.

Go fishing with a neighbor who can’t hammer a nail and he reads a river like a road map.

He points to a spot and says, “That’s where the fish are” and you pull them out of the water likes it’s a trout farm.

Go snowmobiling with someone who can barely ride a bike and they charge up mountains like an X-Games pro.

“Aim for the lip of the ridge,” they say, “and hang on. It feels like you’ll flip backward, but you won’t.”

Gary Potts is one of those guys.

He works out in a gym full of people trying to maintain, people who follow the good advice of lifting light with high repetitions.

A few people can load up the bars and crank as hard as they feel like going.

He’s one of those guys too.

One conversation between sets led to another. The first was about coaching.

Suburban dad coaching his daughters’ basketball team? Okay. Except his is a travel team, a tournament team that plays to win.

Save the juice box and trophy after each game. The game is the reward. Playing with intensity is the goal.

The bigger picture for his teams aim for high school competition. If all goes according to plan, Beaverton will run the state table in a few years.

That’s what you call anticipating future success. Athletes dig deeper to find what they didn’t know they had to give with championships in front of them.

This is a busy guy who takes time to coach. It works out because four years in the United States Marines taught time management, followed by Division-1 football.

Sports and teamwork ingrained the sort of discipline coaches use to help young athletes advance. It’s also the sort of attitude kids need when they arrive at their personal crossroads.

You know about the crossroads?

Think of a decision you made that changed your life. What would have happened if you made the opposite decision, took the other road.

One path leads to community involvement, education, and a chance to stand up.

One path leads to isolation, a narrow focus, and a holding pattern before the fall.

From Robert Johnson’s Cross Road Blues:

I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by.

Gary Potts the Recon Marine, the scholarship football player for the University of Utah, the college graduate, knows the crossroads. He knows the path.

He left footprints, big footprints. Those he lifts up will lift others.

Together their footprints turn the crossroads into a highway toward a better future.

Mr. Potts, Boomerpdx salutes you.