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OAKLAND'S OWN: Royal Oak Shrine football coach tackles health problems

September 16, 2004

BY MARK SNYDER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

It doesn't take long to see John Goddard's impact at football practice.

The 59-year-old Royal Oak Shrine coach, coaching at his alma mater, walks the field, offering advice and overseeing every movement.

Any good coach -- and, after 36 years in the coaching business and a spot in the Michigan Football Coaches Hall of Fame, Goddard qualifies -- will say consistency is vital to success.

The past two years off the field have tested the coach's will. There were three major health problems. Every time one was addressed, another one emerged.

Yet through all that time, Goddard remained a constant presence for his players and coaches.

Ironically, the hardest moments of Goddard's life began with one of the happiest.

As Goddard put on his tuxedo two years ago, preparing for son John's August wedding, he felt tired.

A few days later, Goddard reluctantly saw his doctor. Soon he was in Beaumont Hospital for a heart catheterization. Blocked arteries, they said.

Four days in the hospital and a week off your feet.

For the first time since he began coaching, he missed practice for health reasons. He was right across the street from Shrine's field at Beaumont.

"From my room, I couldn't see the field," he said. "Which may have been a good thing because that year went 2-7."

He returned to coach that season, moving a little slower but feeling good and, supposedly, healthier for it.

By October 2003, more than a year later an annual physical revealed high PSA levels (showing a cancerous prostate), which required treatment.

Injections to stop the cancer's spread began and would last for a two-year cycle. Radiation treatments, which lasted five days a week for about eight weeks, were a more immediate, intensive treatment. Problem No. 2 was addressed and remedied.

Then last spring, during a CT scan to see if the cancer had returned, doctors noticed an unrelated spot on his left kidney.

His doctor told him he was lucky. Goddard replied, "Up until this point, I'm not feeling so lucky, doc."

The luck was in the CT scan, a procedure not normally used in cases like this. The good fortune was the cancer was contained and the damaged kidney could be removed. On June 18, Goddard was out of work another 10 days.

Throughout, Goddard was strong in the face of adversity, something he demands of his players.

"He deals with most of it on his own," said Lou Miramonti, Shrine's former athletic director who hired Goddard and is a close friend. "He'll just say it's no big deal."

Now, fingers crossed, Goddard is in the clear. He's running practice, has a 3-0 team, and said he's never felt better.

"The doctors, I can't thank them enough," Goddard said. "Had these guys not done their due diligence, who knows what might have happened?"

Goddard makes the rounds to his various doctors and keeps getting tested -- for everything.

"You hear all the ads that say, 'Do you have a Beaumont doctor?' Well, I've got a ton of Beaumont doctors," Goddard said, laughing. "My dad is 87 and I have more doctors than he does."

He realizes the problems are part of aging -- Goodard's own high school coach, Al Fracassa, had a similar heart procedure this summer. He's begun to appreciate what he has -- especially his family, wife Gloria and his children, John and Andrea.

He now meets wife Gloria for lunch during a workday and son John coaches with him.

"They're pretty strong too, we're a football family," Goddard said. "But you realize they become your top priority."

AROUND THE ARC: Coaches who attend Paul Galbenski's annual coaching academy at Royal Oak Kimball each fall know what to expect: Informed presenters, player demonstrations and a great chance to network.

But this year's clinic, held Saturday in Kimball's gym, added some new basketball technology -- it introduced NOAH.

An innovative shooting machine, NOAH is the size of a speaking lectern and sits off to the side of the court, analyzing a shot's arc. Players set their number of repetitions and a loudspeaker announces each shot and the arc, to improve a player's consistency. A multi-color printout is available afterward to see the variance in the workout.

Galbenski, who is a Midwest distributor for the California-born business, demonstrated the machine to the Michigan State and Oakland University basketball coaches and the response was enthusiastic. Oakland is seriously considering a purchase.

With a $20,000 price tag, they probably won't be flying into mass production but with four NBA teams already using NOAH, it's likely to pop up at colleges nationwide.

"It's such a brand-new product, it's only out in the past year," Galbenski said.

RAPID FIRE: For those who will struggle to get inside Oakland Hills this weekend for the Ryder Cup, Mulligan's Golf Center in Auburn Hills is offering some golf history of its own at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Golf pro David Ogron, who lives in Laguna Beach, Calif., will try to set a Guinness Book of World Records mark by hitting the most golf balls in one hour.

He holds the 24-hour record (10,392) and the 12-hour record (6,971). His plan is to hit 2,300 golf balls in the period from 7-8 p.m. The event will raise money to help care for Livonia's Bob Hanner, who faces severe medical costs after he suffered a spinal-cord injury in May 2003.

Contact MARK SNYDER at 248-351-3688 or msnyder@freepress.com.


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