Age is only a number.
At least that's what folks tried to sell me a few months ago when I hit the half-century mark.
For Chesterton baseball and girls basketball coach Jack Campbell, the only thing that he enjoys about being 68 is the occasional discount.
"I don't like being around older people, other than Fred (Mitchell)," Campbell joked about his basketball assistant coach. "I hear a lot of conversations, and there's nothing for me to talk about to a lot of older people. I'm at the Wellness Center, about to hit the (hot) tub. I'll probably just put a wet towel on my face, do some stretching and get out of there."
Campbell means no disrespect to senior citizens, being that he is one, at least technically. Nor do I. The point here is that Campbell, while from another generation, has no problems relating to younger generations, an absolute must in the professions of teaching and coaching.
"I teach elementary school. I still identify with the kids," he said. "I like to have fun. I like to talk about sports, things people are directly involved in. I enjoy popular music. I enjoy popular TV shows other than Lawrence Welk. I always tell kids I'm a lot smarter than they think I am in regards to what's going on in today's world. Once in a while, I shock them by something I say. How do you know about that?"
When Campbell was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame early this year, he went up to the dais with his IPad. He asked the audience if anybody had a Smart Phone. No one raised their hands. He asked the same question regarding IPads. Still nothing.
"I'm getting in the 21st Century," Campbell said. "(JV coach) Tommy (Berry) asked me the other day if I had the names of all the kids who signed up for our camp and can you email it to me. I was emailing him. He was shocked I was able to do that."
Whether it's his casual style or his use of 'babe' in greetings, there's a definite 'cool' factor with Campbell, and that's not lost on his players. Anybody who thinks he's out of touch should just ask his athletes.
"He doesn't act his age," catcher Michael Crowley said. "He still acts young and he coaches like he's young. He's like one of the guys. He's just so in tune. He can listen to everybody."
Pitching coach Chris Smith played for Campbell about a decade ago. He sees little difference in him as a coach as compared to a colleague. It's that quality that has sustained him through ups and downs that span five decades.
"His consistency as a person also makes his program such a great experience to go through," Smith said. "Kids haven't played for him yet but they understand what the expectations are. Everybody's on the same page from day one. There are a lot of camaraderies. He has no parent problems and hardly ever any kid problems, and his (personality) lends itself to that."
A few benefits that do come with age are wisdom and perspective. Campbell knows the platitudes can quickly turn to barbs, and a genius one day can be a moron the next.
"You have a point where you're too young, then you reach a point where you've forgotten everything," he said. "You can't assume you know everything because you're older."
Either way, Campbell will put in his earphones, crank up his ITunes and just keep on cruisin'.