By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The lesson Boone Marker remembers most vividly from his days as a McNary High School athlete was also one of his earliest.
“I made a snide remark during baseball tryouts of my freshman year. It got back to Coach (Craig) Nicholas,” Marker said. “I waited and waited for him to ask to speak to me. Finally, I went to him. I was ready to run 15 miles to make up for it if I could still be part of the team.”
When Marker pleaded his case, Nicholas said nothing. Later that day, he addressed the whole team.
“He told us, ‘You’ve come here and you wear our clothes. You respect that. You respect your school, you respect your coaches, you respect your teammates, you respect yourself,” Marker said. The team went on to a 16-2 record.
That lesson has been ringing in his ears in recent weeks. Marker is now athletic director of the Salem Boys & Girls Club, and one of the athletes went on a Twitter attack of her coach in the program. When the time comes, it’s not hard to see him choosing a similar method to address it.
Marker was involved with the Boys & Girls Club from a young age as an athlete, then a peer mentor and later as a branch director. He’s starting in his fifth year as athletic director and oversees 67 teams with 800 budding athletes, but he still gets a bit giddy at the thought of himself at his current athletes’ ages.
“I wanted to be Stephen Copeland,” Marker said. Copeland led the McNary football team to its first state title in 1997. He took it upon himself to do the necessary research.
“All the teams at the time were learning the McNary offense under Tom Smythe, but I knew all the calls. I would sit in the visitor section so I would watch the hand signals and learn who the decoys were,” he said.
Eventually, he offered himself up as one of the decoys. As a freshman, he even wore the same cleats Copeland used in the 1997 championship game.
“I don’t think any of us ever thought we would be in the same position four years later when I was a senior,” Marker said.
While Marker didn’t have as much contact with Smythe as some other players did, the lesson he and many other took from the man is often summed up with the letters “WWLB.” Depending on who one asks, the precise meaning is: winners win, losers bellyache. Frequently, the last word is swapped out for an expletive.
“What I took that to mean was that you’re going to do well or you’re not, depending on how you prepare,” he said.
Marker had more contact with Jeff Auvinen in his role as a starter on the junior varsity team (his record was 5-2).
“Auvinen was just a great head coach. He always put me in the best position for success. He was relaxed when he needed to be, and did a good job of figuring out what our strengths were,” Marker said.
After McNary, he went on to study at Chemeketa Community College and then Western Oregon University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. He recently completed a master’s degree in business with University of Phoenix. Marker’s path at Boys & Girls Club has always presented itself, but many of the things he picked up from a long line of coaches – at McNary and elsewhere – are put to use with the next generation of athletes. For the most part, he wants club members to focus on the fun in fundamentals.
“It means we may not keep score, but there are plenty of outlets for competitive athletics. What we try to focus on is how we can help them get better so that they walk away from the experience with something to work on,” he said.
Marker is keenly aware of how a focus on results can skew the perceptions of student athletes when the key is to give those same students the tools to succeed outside of sports. If he does the job well, there’s also a chance a few will follow in his footsteps.
“Somewhere along the line, I realized how many people had given their time to be a coach for me. I also realized that they were doing it because someone did it for them, that’s why I’m doing this, and it’s why I love it.”