It’s evident that Dave Copeland has touched a lot of lives. Sitting inside a fast-food restaurant, person after person comes over to greet “Coach.”
Copeland has been a volunteer coach with the Moncks Corner Recreation Department for 35 years, and over that time has coached thousands of youngsters, some of whom went on to greatness on the athletic fields and some who have become important members of their community.
“It makes you feel good,” said Copeland, who has just returned from helping the Berkeley High School basketball team at a camp at Presbyterian College. “They thank you for what you did. Sometimes it brings tears to your eyes. I can’t remember all the names, but I remember the faces.”
Flipping through team pictures through the years, he can recount 20 championship teams he has coached, many of them undefeated. Ryan Stewart, who played for Georgia Tech and then the Detroit Lions in the NFL, played for Copeland as a youngster. So did Jabari Levey, who was an offensive lineman at South Carolina. There have been plenty of others who went on to play college football.
“The 1994 (Berkeley High School) state championship team, I coached all of them in rec ball,” Copeland points out.
He didn’t coach legendary Berkeley running back Mike Dingle, who was too big to play in the recreation leagues, but he did coach Dingle’s brother, Tony.
It’s somewhat ironic that Copeland has made most of his coaching mark on the football field. As a youngster, his mother feared he would get hurt playing football, so he became a basketball player.
He said the late John Henry Duncan introduced him to coaching more than three decades ago, and he’s been doing it ever since.
Copeland said his coaching philosophy revolves around five points of respect: Respect yourself because you can’t respect others if you don’t respect yourself; respect your parents; respect your teachers; respect your teammates; and respect your coaches.
“If you do those five things, then you’ll be successful,” he said.
A husband, father and grandfather, Copeland said he did not like coaching his own children because he felt he was too hard on them. Copeland has coached all ages but prefers older youths. The younger ones don’t have as long an attention span.
“You have to have patience if you plan on coaching,” Copeland said. “You can’t have rabbit ears. People will talk about you. If you do good, they’ll talk; if you do bad, they’ll talk. As a coach, you have to block those things out.
“If I call a play, it’s not going to satisfy 28 parents and 28 grandparents. That’s never going to happen. The kids have to go out and execute that play I called. It will work if everybody does what they’re supposed to do.”
Copeland started but did not finish college, and said that’s one thing he would change if he could.
But he wouldn’t trade his coaching experiences for anything.