This is the first in a series of feature articles on Westminster’s School faculty or staff. Each piece is designed to give the Westminster community a more intimate look at the individuals who invest in and touch the lives of our children. Each is an image bearer who serves a critical role at Westminster.

Calm, collected and focused. That’s how Coach Daryle Butler, varsity coach of the Westminster Boy’s Basketball Team, appears on the sidelines as he stands watching and assessing his team to see if his players are implementing what they have gone over and over in practice. Although deeply passionate about the game that he loves and coaches, nothing seems to rattle this coach.

Born in Independence, LA, a town in Tangipahoa Parish, Butler grew up in Roseland, a town so small that it had no high school. So, children went to high school in Amite, the city seat of Tangipahoa Parish. That too was small.

Says Coach Butler, “For a child growing up in either town, there was little to see, and nothing to aspire to.” The only child of divorced parents, he liked basketball, but it held little promise for him in the early years. “I was the fat kid that never made the team,” he mused. Despite his efforts, he was cut in the 7th and 8th grades. Unbeknownst to young Butler, however, a movie showing in a theater in a neighboring town would provide the impetus for the turning point in his life.

He recounts the day he went to the theater with his mother and cousins. “There were two movies playing—“Rocky” and “E.T.” They went to see “E.T.” I chose “Rocky.” That movie changed my thought process toward physical training,” said Butler, “and I was forced to ask myself, ‘What are you going to do to change that (his situation)?’”

With a firm resolve, Butler’s response was to set up a room to lift weights and work on his body believing that if Rocky could do it, so could he. And, work he did! “I went from about 250 lbs. at 5’7” to about 210 lbs. at 5’11,” he said. Daryle Butler was no longer known as the fat kid. His hard work paid off on the court as well. He made his high school basketball team and played his freshman year through his senior year. In fact, Butler was a part of Amite High School’s first 3-A State Championship Boys’ Basketball Team and a three-year Letterman on varsity. In addition to Rocky and Lou Ferrigno, Julius Erving (Dr. J) was his hero, and like many youngsters, he dreamed of playing professional basketball.

After finishing high school at 17, Daryle Butler took the next step that would take him closer to realizing his dream—college. Butler applied to college. It was small, strong academically, and it had a basketball team. His scores were good enough to gain him entrance though he admitted with some regret to not having given his best effort as he did in basketball.

Before enrolling, Butler talked with the coach, shared his love for basketball and asked for the opportunity to play on the team to earn a scholarship. When the coach agreed, he enrolled. But Butler eventually found himself in a “no-win” situation. He recalls the conversation with no bitterness, but pangs of regret, “The coach said that he could not justify allowing me to play while seating players who had been given scholarships. The board would not understand that.”

Disheartened and with no possibility of a scholarship to continue his education, he returned home after his freshman year. By any account Butler had gotten a raw deal, but he insists that he was as much to blame as the coach. “Had I done my part,” said Butler, I would have focused on the things that were in my control, like working even harder to be the best athlete that I could be. I should have gone to every practice and out-worked every guy on the team every day. If the coach still did not want to play me, at least I would rest in the knowledge that I had done my part.”

He moved to Atlanta a short time after, but realizing that the environment in which he found himself was not the right one for him, Butler returned to Birmingham and re- enrolled in school. But his mind was not on academics, so he called it quits and left. But his love for basketball had not waned. He played with a group at Lakeside Baptist Church and was later asked to help coach a senior high boy’s church league team, unaware that he was being evaluated on how he related to the kids and the manner in which he conducted himself during competition. He was subsequently asked to take over and coach that team.

Asked what part his faith played in his early life, Butler replied, “I was not a Christ follower. I was raised in the church, but spent more time being angry with a God that I believed in instead of developing a relationship with Him.” Butler said for years he had prayed for his parents to get back together, but his prayers were not answered.

Though he and his father developed a very good relationship in his dad’s latter years, Butler says, “The absence of my father and the lack of a relationship with him during my childhood and early adult life gave me an understanding of what a son looks for and needs in a father. God used my pain to give me a heart for young people and uses my experiences to lead me in my relationships with my players, both past and present.”

He shared an experience that sticks out in his mind during his time at Lakeside. “A 15- or 16-year old kid named Matt was playing for me. His background was similar to mine in that his parents were also divorced. He gave me a Father’s Day card. That rattled me. I was about 22 and wasn’t ready to bear that responsibility—to be looked at as a father figure because I knew I wasn’t where I needed to be.” That would soon change. Daryle Butler became serious about his relationship with God, and at the age of 27, surrendered to Him and allowed God to use him to help others.

The “kid” to whom Butler referred is Matt Johnson, a teenager playing pickup games at Lakeside when he met Butler. He reflects on their 20-year relationship. “He is just as good as they get. He is always there for others. He doesn’t put you off, but makes time for those in need,” he says of Daryle Butler. “He has been a good friend—a true friend. He has been there through the ups and downs. He is steady,” he continued. “I feel so blessed and so humbled to have his friendship.”

Of the young athletes who are being developed by Coach Butler, Johnson says, “It’s not just about the wins and losses; it’s about the life lessons…about growing. He sets the foundation for those guys when they leave. He will teach them things that will help them to carry through the rest of their lives.”

After coaching at Lakeside, Butler went on to coach the JV Teams at Shades Mountain Christian, Pelham, and Hoover High Schools, and returned to Shades Mountain Christian to coach Varsity. After three seasons coaching there, Coach Butler stepped down to care for his mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her surgery and treatments, Coach Butler moved his mother from Georgia to Birmingham to be with him during her recovery. He began coaching again; he coached AAU teams in the spring and ran a basketball skills academy in the fall. It was there that he met Jeffrey Stanford and other Westminster athletes that ultimately led to him coming to coach at Westminster.

His job in Quality Control Testing at Sherman Concrete affords Butler the opportunity to do what he loves—work with young athletes coaching them on the court and off. He has, in fact, set up a place that is lovingly referred to as ‘The Dungeon’ where he works with young athletes and continues to instill in his players the importance of giving their best in every aspect of life. He draws deeply from his experience as a 17-year old college freshman with a dream to play ball. “I made the mistake of allowing the coach’s philosophy and mindset to dictate whether I would try to play for the college basketball team. I allowed him to have the final say on when my basketball career would come to an end.” He seeks to build that life lesson in the young athletes he mentors.

According to Scott Stanford, the Westminster parent responsible for introducing Coach Butler to the Westminster Community, “’The Dungeon’ is a ministry for him. A lot of boys come through it. He is interested in their souls and in their lives.” This is borne out in what some of his players have to say about their coach.

“The most important thing that I have learned from Coach Butler is excellence. He has taught me to transfer excellence in other areas in my life outside of basketball as well, which has been very beneficial for me…He’s not just about winning, but more about the development of each one of us from young boys into men.” – Jonathan Stanford

“I’ve learned from Coach Butler that if you truly want to be great at anything in life, it takes unwavering commitment…I have grown as a player and as a young man under his leadership…He pushes us to be greater men of God who are fighters and who don’t give up. -Sammy Haskins

Coach Butler is very honest and straight. He knows how to fix the problem. – Will Simpson

A quiet man with a deep love for the Lord, Coach Butler’s beliefs are encompassed in his actions and speak volumes. When asked about a passage in the Bible that resonates with him, he commented, “I particularly like Philippians 4:13- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and Proverbs 27:17- Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Athletes who have played for and trained with Coach Butler know the concepts well, for they are truths that he tries to instill in them through his life and what he demands of them.

Coach Butler’s commitment to his calling helps take young athletes from boys to men. Westminster is blessed to have him as part of our community.