The lifestyle of a coach is not the easiest one to tackle. You’re hours are not normal at the office. You spend more time there than you do at home. You spend a ton more hours and days out on the road recruiting. If you’re lucky enough to win year after year then maybe you don’t have to move, although most coaches experience multiple moves in their careers. To sum it up, you better know what you’re getting into when you decide that you want to be a college football coach.
Now, the nice thing about all of this is that you have the power to decide whether or not you want in on that lifestyle. However, there are people that are also part of that decision, but they didn’t get to decide whether or not that lifestyle was good for them. Those people would be the children of college football coaches.
It’s not an easy life, to say the least, for coaches’ children. They will change schools and hometowns constantly. They will make and lose friends every couple of years. It can be hard to have sense of continuity in their lives. Some may even lose a sense of themselves from being in the “spotlight” of their dad’s career. Then again, a lot of these kids become very resilient as a result. A lot of these kids learn to be self-drivers because they’re forced to make the best of each move to new cities and meet new friends. If they have siblings growing up, a lot of them rally around each other because only they know what the other is really going through in that life. It can form a bond that’s as strong as any.
One such bond can be seen with a brother and sister at Arkansas State University. Blaise and Starr Taylor are the son and daughter of Arkansas State Assistant Head Football Coach, Trooper Taylor. Coach Taylor has been in college coaching their whole lives. Blaise just finished his own football career for the Red Wolves, and Starr is in her second season playing basketball at Arkansas State. In addition to excelling in football and basketball, both Taylor kids are outstanding students in the classroom as well. However, their story doesn’t stop there.
Last summer the two of them decided that even though they have extremely busy schedules with their academic course loads and their athletic obligations, there was something more they wanted to do. There was something else calling both of them to act. Blaise and Starr decided to start their own non-profit organization. Their organization is called The Power of 1 or 2. What would the mission of this non-profit be? The mission is to empower, educate and enhance the lives of underprivileged kids and youth in their community.
I’m not sure what you were doing in college, but I know I wasn’t competing in Division 1 athletics, pursuing multiple degrees and creating and running my own non-profit organization. Under The Headset sat down with the Taylors and their father to learn more about how these coach’s kids were succeeding in life and managing to give back to the kids in their community in a major way.
Where did the idea for the Power of 1 or 2 come from? – Starr: “We had always talked about doing something together for kids in the community. Blaise had volunteered with The Success Academy, a local school here in Jonesboro. And our mother is a social worker and always instilled the need to volunteer in our lives. So we’ve always been involved with different volunteer organizations as we were growing up. Blaise had the idea to start our own organization. His work with The Success Academy over the last year really impacted his mindset on life and he wanted to do more.”
Blaise: “We were together a lot this summer and talked about what we wanted to do in the future in terms of volunteering in the community and mentoring kids. Then we thought it would be cool if we could do that together, and maybe even start our own organization based around that idea. It was lighthearted at first, but the more we talked about, the more serious we got about it and decided that this is something that was definitely going to happen.”
Were there any moments of doubt or second-thoughts in taking on this challenge? – Starr: “When we get our minds set on something, we’re determined to make it happen. It’s how our parents are and it’s how we were raised. Life has always been busy. We moved seven times when we were growing up. I think that has helped us adjust to stressful situations and given us the tools to handle heavy workloads. We didn’t realize how much went into creating a non-profit organization so it’s been a new learning experience for us and given us a stronger appreciation for all of the other community programs out there and the amount of work that goes into starting and running an organization.
Blaise: “We were concerned at first with our schedules and workload with sports and school. But the feeling to do it and do it the right way was too strong to ignore. We knew once we set our minds to it that some sacrifices would have to be made but that those sacrifices would be worth it in the end. Our most valuable asset is our time so we weren’t going to waste it in any part of our lives.”
Speaking of time, you two are both extremely busy with your sports and course loads. Did anybody, like your coaches, try and talk you out of this, or tell you it’s not possible? – Blaise: “No. In fact, it’s been more of the opposite of that in my opinion. If anything, I think the people around us have really rallied around us and given us a ton of support.”
Starr: “My coaches have been so supportive of our work and I know Blaise’s coaches felt the same way. It’s really allowed us to rally athletes in different sports here at Arkansas State and I think that’s one of the aspects we’re most proud of because the whole athletic department can get involved.”
Trooper: “I asked my wife what she thought from the parental point of view. Could they do this and still handle their responsibilities in the classroom and on the field and the court? Is this opening them up and making them vulnerable to negative people out there that have bad intentions? So I was nervous about it and wanted to make sure that they knew what they were walking into with this plan. Not everybody out there is your friend and wants the best for you.”
Your Dad brings up an important part of this decision. What did your parents think when you told them you wanted to do this? – Starr: “. They were proud that we wanted to do this. They’ve always taught us to have a service-minded heart and to give back in any way we can, large or small. They gave us a better life than what they grew up with. My Dad was one of 16 kids in his family and Mom’s family didn’t have a lot of money either. I think they thought maybe this was something we’d do after college, so I think they were surprised at first how adamant we were to do this now.”
How did you as parents feel about their idea? – Trooper: “When they first mentioned this endeavor, I just felt a sense of pride that these were my kids talking about how much they wanted to impact the lives of other kids. It was amazing to me to see how their life experiences were influencing their decision and felt a calling to do this. I don’t how to describe the feeling, but I was just overwhelmed with pride. I had no idea how they would make it all come together, but I knew the two of them working together could make anything happen. It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget. We’re blessed to have kids that want to make a difference.”
What were they like as siblings growing up? – Trooper: “They actually were great siblings. Blaise learned early on the need to take care and look out for his sister. He knew if she cried, he was in trouble. Now, we figured it out early on that Starr realized how she could turn this into her favor so we had to adjust those rules a bit. I think their closeness comes from the fact that our house was competitive. It didn’t matter what it was, whether it was cleaning up or carrying in the groceries, it was always a competition to see who could do it better. Then when sports entered the picture, it just grew from there. Blaise always brought Starr with him, no matter the sport. He will tell you now; he started picking her first in basketball because she was better than other boys in the neighborhood. Blaise likes to win so he knew she could help him win. So I don’t know if it was the fact that Blaise loved his sister, or he just loved her jumper(laughing). I can’t remember a time when they weren’t close and looking out for each other. A coach’s lifestyle isn’t an easy one, with all of the moves and the ups and downs of the job. So I think they really leaned on each other to be able to deal with growing up as coach’s kids.”
How would you two describe your relationship growing up? – Blaise: “I can’t remember a time when we didn’t get along, except when it came to one of us winning and one of us losing in sports.”
Starr: “He probably doesn’t know this, but when we were growing up, I wanted to be Blaise. What he was doing I wanted to do too. I may have been the super-annoying sister because wherever he went I went too. That’s what has driven me with this idea because it might only take one mentor to change a life and my brother was one of the most important people to impact my life. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and he was an important role model for me. It became a competition in everything we did, both on the field and in the classroom. We used to compare grades in every class. Whenever he played basketball with his friends I was one of the only girls who played with them. Blaise always had my back and he would pick me first when it came time to pick teams. And then we would always win too, which was fun. Our relationship is what brought me to Arkansas State and it gets stronger every year.”
Where did the inspiration for the mission of this non-profit come from in your lives? – Starr: “We know we were fortunate to have the upbringing we did. We got to experience so much and live in different communities growing up. We were exposed to multiple mentors that were there for us when we were younger, starting with our parents. So we felt called to try and give that experience to other kids and people who didn’t have the opportunities we had in our own lives.”
Blaise: “I think how we were raised drew us to this cause. I always wanted to be around my Dad and his players and they were mentors to me. My Dad and his players always did a lot of community service projects and so if I wanted to hang around them I had to do those as well. Volunteering just became ingrained in our way of life. The name is a play on our numbers, 1 and 2. We wanted the organization to reflect who were are and what we wanted to do. More importantly, we wanted it to be a reflection of how we got here today and the people that influenced our lives along the way. It doesn’t take a ton of people to impact a life. It can take as few as 1 or 2 people to impact a life.”
Both of you mentioned the fact that how you were raised and growing up in your family heavily influenced you in creating this organization. What was is like growing up in a coaching family? – Blaise: “Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I know a lot of people look at it from the outside and wonder how you deal with not seeing your dad a lot or moving so many times. But it’s all we knew. And our dad did everything he could to maximize the time we did see him. I think most of our strength came from each other. We’re a tight-knit family and everything we experienced in our lives only brought us closer together.”
Starr: “I loved our childhood years. I loved being around my dad and his teams. Like Blaise has said before, we looked up to a lot of his players. They were like older brothers to us. It was tough moving, but the closeness of our family is what got us through all of those moves. Even today, we’re all here at Arkansas State. It’s been awesome to be here together as a family. We get to see each other more now than we did growing up. It’s something I don’t take for granted and we love this community.”
How does that make you feel when they describe what their childhoods in a coaching family were like? – Trooper: “You always wonder to yourself how this job is affecting your family. You always want more time with them. That’s the biggest thing, just wanting to see them more. We’ve always been a tightknit family that protects the name on the back of the jersey, so when we say we’re going to do something, we’re not going to do it halfway and I think you can see that with what they’ve done in the classroom and on the field and courts, and also with this organization. This hasn’t been easy for them. They’ve had to work hard to just get the paperwork done, getting a board set up and then having the first board meeting. But they have done it all from A to Z. They could have hired others to do all of this for them but they said it was their deal and they did the groundwork themselves. These are two special kids and I’m lucky to call them my kids.”
What goals do you have for this organization – Starr: “Our ultimate goal is to impact as many kids’ lives as we can. I don’t think we have a specific “goal” in mind. It’s just all about changing as many lives for the better that we can. And if we change just one life, then that person can change two more lives and the whole purpose and mission can grow organically from there. It’s not about how many kids; it’s about impacting every kid we interact with through the Power of 1 or 2.”
Blaise: “We want to serve kids so that their lives are changed and that will make them want to serve others and change their lives and so on and so on.”
There is a common source of strength with the Taylors. Family is where everything starts and ends with them. That family bond is the reason these two kids experienced the challenges of being a coach’s kid, and came out on the other side of it as role models to the kids they work with.
They don’t just talk the talk either. In the classroom, Blaise earned his bachelor’s degree in two-and-a-half years, and earned his MBA before his senior season even began. That’s a fete nobody thinks another FBS college football player has ever accomplished before. He was recently awarded the prestigious Arthur Ashe Jr. Male Sports Scholar award for his accomplishments as a student-athlete. On the field, he was a multi-year Sun Belt All-Conference selection, and will be hoping to continue his career in the NFL. Not to be outdone by her big brother, Starr, as always, has followed in his footsteps. She started in 22 of the 32 games she played in last season as a true freshman and has quickly become a leader in the program. She is off to a strong start in the classroom as well, no doubt driven to make sure she beats Blaise in the classroom.
One thing is clear about these two; they will make the fans and alumni at Arkansas State proud to have them in their programs, and the community of Jonesboro is better from having these two and The Power of 1 or 2 in it.