ANNA — Southern Illinois University's basketball coach, Barry Hinson, led with his coaching this morning, his big full voice filling the packed auditorium at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School, where he was talking about bullying.
Hinson encouraged the students to stand up to bullying and then to work at improving communications, spending some time in face-to-face interactions instead of via social media.
He told the crowd that he looked at them when he attended their football game against Du Quoin, getting a chance to see what they were like.
"I'm excited for this school, because everything is contagious," Hinson said. "What I saw your football team do, what I saw your band do, what I saw your cheer team do, what I saw your student body do, what I saw your community do was absolutely outstanding. Thumbs-up emoji, no poopie emoji, whatever the fricking emoji is you use to get excited. But this place, Anna-Jonesboro High School, has got it going on."
Hinson was not invited out to the school in response to any particular problem, but just to share with the youth, one of the school's football coaches, David Sullivan, said. Sullivan said he is on a committee with Hinson, who visited the school about five years ago.
"Any school's got some problems, to some degree," Sullivan said. "But I think for the most part we have a great school here."
Hinson encouraged the children to practice compassion toward each other, especially initiating conversation with someone who might not look so happy, standing up for others and living lives of purpose.
"I love being here today and talking to you," Hinson said. "I love what I do. If you don't love what you're doing, stop and find what you do love because life's too short," Hinson said to applause.
One of the students, high school basketball standout Jake Parr, said the one thing he was impacted by was what Hinson said about being on the alert for and standing up to bullying.
"(From that I learned to) step up for that individual and help them out," Jake said.
Students like Heidi Mitchell and Lexi Smith, both 17, said they like that Hinson used humor to get his point across and relate to the students.
"He was able to relate to the students a little bit more, so we wanted to listen," Heidi said.
"That showed that he was actually interested in the school and not just coming here and saying a speech," Heidi said. "He wanted to make an impact on us."
"He related a lot back to football and how we have such a great community and how football is really bringing us together, and how that needs to carry over and we need to be like that every day, in our every day lives," said Heidi, who plays volleyball for the school.
"He was awesome," 17-year-old Jacob Zimmerman, a basketball player at the school, said. "He involved comedy (to talk about) touchy subjects … like bullying."