A South Burlington man is a finalist for USA Today’s Best of Humankind Awards, given to people who showed kindness, compassion and perseverance in 2021.
Rene LaBerge is the inspiration behind the South Burlington Dolphins Youth Football Program. “Coach Rene” has impacted players’ lives on and off the field. He said the sport teaches players responsibility, teamwork and discipline.
“They don’t teach discipline in school anymore,” he said. “Without discipline, you can not be successful in almost anything.”
Coach Rene said his nomination for USA Today’s Best of Humankind Awards was a surprise.
“Quite truthfully I couldn’t even talk,” he said. “I thought the guy was scamming me when he called me.”
Doug Johnson nominated Coach Rene. Johnson’s late son Chris played for the coach, who supported his son through his struggles.
“My son had gone through a difficult time, drugs and substance abuse and different behavioral issues,” Johnson said. “He was there to listen to Chris and to give him guidance. And teach him the values that he instilled in the other players.”
There is one specific message Coach Rene wants to relay to his players.
“To believe in themselves,” Coach Rene said. “Because most young people don’t believe in themselves.”
Javen Sears played for Coach Rene in 7th and 8th grade.
“Anything I need he is always there,” Sears said. “I know I can always rely on somebody. He’s just a mentor in all areas, not even just football, it’s like a life coach.”
Coach Rene has spent more than five decades teaching his players. This is the biggest lesson of all: no matter if you win or lose, always have pride.
“Be responsible for yourself, that’s what pride means,” Coach Rene said. “Personable responsibility, for individual daily effort. You do your best every day, you get better and better.”