The Coach Doug Touch
A horrific motorcycle accident almost took his life, but through kids he has rebounded to become something he never dreamed - a gifted instructor.

Fifteen years later, Doug Wilson still doesn't know what happened. The road was straight, the driving lanes clear and the weather was the typical spring dew of the early South Carolina night.

But when he awoke eight days later with three broken bones and a severe brain injury from losing control of his motorcycle, the young man many people know today as "Coach Doug" was in a literal and physical fog. His mind blacked out the accident.

Doug Wilson has an amazing talent for talking to a kid's level.
Coach Doug Wilson showing the touch that has made him very popular among kids and parents.

The car behind him saw the bike's tail light wobble. They saw the sparks of the skidding metal. And when they got to the unconscious Wilson, he was not wearing a helmet. That would prove to be a life-altering omission.

Today, Coach Doug is a prominent force in Montgomery County recreation and youth development as his classes, camps and clinics teach kids sports, arts, sciences and computer skills. This is his 10th year with his dad, Bill Wilson, running CTI Kids afterschool programs and summer camps. Around half a dozen CTI offerings are available through MCRD each quarter.

Working with kids has helped me get back on my feet and return the favor in ways I never imagined before, said Coach Doug, whose brain was so jarred by the impact that he lost the ability to walk, talk, taste, balance or use his given hand (once left-handed, he's now predominately right-handed).

He was in the hospital three months, a wheelchair for six and in physical recovery for several years. The headaches are unbearable and he maintains a slight hesitation in speech and walks with a slower step.

But the fact Wilson is able to live a reasonably normal life again is one story; the fact he pours 100 percent of his energy into kids and volunteer causes is yet another.

"I'm very fortunate because you take a situation like mine--where doctors said I had a one in a million chance and you are dependent on everyone else to survive--the accident turned into a positive," he said.

Almost immediately he became a powerful advocate for states to pass the universal helmet law. His words were critical testimony for passage in the Maryland Legislature.

"I remember getting a call from a mother who said we had saved her son's life because of getting the law passed," he said, beaming.

At the time of the accident, Wilson was six weeks shy of graduating from the University of South Carolina, where he had been a kicker on the football team. (He finished his economics degree in 1993 as part of his mental rehabilitation). He played soccer at Churchill High but had never really thought about coaching or working with kids until confronted with his own emotional recovery.

CTI originated as a computer services company in 1978.
Coach Doug's CTI Kids program teaches youngsters basic computer skills, including learning type.

"After the accident I couldn't run for three years," he said. "So I volunteered to help with some youth sports teams. I was pretty limited to what I could do but these kids didn't care. They rallied around me, gave me strength and encouragement."

"I learned to respect kids and now I help them because they helped me."

Coach Doug has a natural gift of keeping kids engaged and focused, and making each child feel important. In his Challenger Jr. camps, where each camper builds a small rocket, Coach Doug makes sure every rocket launches successfully. In his sports camps, he wants every kid to remember the first time he scored a basket or kicked a soccer ball.

"Coach Doug has a knack for making each and every child feel important and they look up to him and want to try to do their best," said Cindy Cheamitru, MCRD recreation specialist in Classes and Camps. "Parents really appreciate the way Coach Doug and his staff recognize that each child is different, yet they are all treated equally. Parents always light up when their child gets special recognition and in Doug's classes, every child gets a daily dose of special recognition."

Wilson's secret is commonly known as the "Coach Doug Touch." He hates to turn any child away from his classes. If he sees children in a center who are not enrolled, he'll stop the parent and invite them and their child to join for the day. He has a startling number of repeat participants and campers.

Coach Doug makes sure each kid's rocket launches.
Many kids had so much fun building a rocket and watching it launch at the Challenger Jr. camp they attended the camp again.

"Coach Doug's top concern is the kids and their parents," Cheamitru said. "He has given up his free time to help struggling children. He is genuinely interested in kids and they know it, the parents know it and his staff knows it."

Now, 10 years later, he gets the occasional handshake of someone saying, "you probably don't remember me. . ." These are grown kids who are in high school or college, who were once a little face in a sea of little faces. They still remember their first coach . . . the first time they dribbled a basketball, typed on a keyboard or heard about helmet safety.

They remember Coach Doug.

"For me, this line of work is something that's agreeing with me," he said. "I always thought I would go into business. But the accident is something I cannot change and why I say it was a positive. Each day it's a pleasure to go to work with kids and teach them."

To see a list of MCRD's Coach Doug classes through CTI Kids, visit the Fall Guide on pages 64-66, 70.

October 2006
Vol. 1, Issue 12
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