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Manchester assistant coach delivers despite his disability: ‘He’s never given up’

Posted at 11:40 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 10:55:10-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- People associated with Manchester High School become a part of the Lancer family and tend to stick around for a while.

Football coach Tom Hall is the longest tenured boss at his position in the area, nearly 20 years.

Basketball coach Josh Karlson has been at Manchester nearly as long and is in his fourth season as head coach.

After winning games, his mission is simple and straightforward.

"Basketball can be a mode and means for things beyond just what's on the court," Karlson explained. "I try to teach our guys to be better students, to be better men. The things that they learn here to carry on to the next level."

That includes being appreciative of the gifts and talents they have been given. In that regard, he has some very good help.

Thomas Allen was a student at Manchester and was approached over a decade ago by former head coach Chip McCool about becoming a manager. He became as constant of a presence as the bleachers and the baskets.

"It was easy once you got to know him and once you got to understand his desire to just be around guys and his commitment," Karlson said. "He bleeds orange and blue. He's Manchester through and through."

"I don't remember a time without Coach Allen," added Lancer senior Ben Young. "Every game, every time, every practice. He's always here."

Born with cerebral palsy, Allen also helped out with the football program, and Coach Hall had him suit up for his senior night. But basketball is his true love and focus, and just being a manager wasn't enough for him.

Allen is now a full-fledged assistant with the Lancers, contributing in any way possible.

"We have him break down stats for us," Karlson said.  "He knows certain things that we look for and he charts stuff for us. Before the games, he's actually the first one in the locker room getting them all ready, getting them all excited."

"I watch film two or three hours a day," Allen added. "I don't have any other job besides this right now, so I watch film and continue to find what we have to work on."

"He's all about hustle, the mentality of never giving up because that's his life story," Young said.

"He's never given up."

Allen's disability might limit him in some ways, but his attitude and mere presence in the gym provides a perspective that a coach can't readily find.

"I'm not normal," Allen said. "Nobody's normal. We've all gotta push hard. I know it takes me twice as long to get anything but we're all human beings."

"My motto is never give up. I don't make any excuses," he added.

"If there's ever a down day or a down practice, it just takes two seconds of him injecting his positivity," Karlson said. "There's no value to that. It's immeasurable."

"I think it's important to have somebody like that because obviously if you miss a shot or lose a game, you take a dive into a little valley," said Young. "Coach Allen is always there with the same attitude. We're going to get better every day."

"He emails me and texts me at all hours" Karlson said. "Everything that he does is what we're involved with and I swear to you, this is what he lives for for sure."

Much like the kids he's coaching, Allen would like to move up to the college or professional level at some point. He knows there aren't a lot of special needs coaches and that he never played the game, but he believes an understanding of the game is part of a bigger picture.

As big as an understanding of each other.

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