Most of us know someone who will always bring a smile to our face. Someone you could talk to about a personal problem or concern, and their input will always give you wisdom. Someone who has shown you over time they have a giant heart for people.
For 40 years the Derby Panther Football program has had someone just like that. Bill Baum has not only assisted as an athletic trainer in his 40 years but has evolved into a true inspirational team leader today.
As a Sports Medicine Specialist Baum has spent years helping student athletes feel better. It may have been taping up a sore ankle back in the day, or listening and advising a Derby football player about following the right path in life today.
The 60-year-old Baum graduated from Wichita East High School in 1978. And he remembers in 1976 when a coach at East asked him if he had ever heard of athletic training. Baum wasn’t real familiar with the concept but admitted it sounded interesting because of his love for sports.
“Back then I went to an athletic training camp in Emporia, and it was awesome,” Baum said.
At the camp he learned about injuries, how to tape, and got to work with professional trainers in Kansas from other state colleges. That is all it took. Baum was hooked and went back to East High School and started volunteering and assisting with athletic training. He loved it because it gave him the chance to be part of sports teams that he wouldn’t have normally had.
In 1980, East football coach Mick Johnson came to Derby as an assistant coach under then head coach Tom McVay. Johnson encouraged Baum to come to Derby and talk to McVay about helping with the athletic training.
“I talked to Tom about helping and I’ve been bleeding green ever since that moment,” Baum said.
Baum got hooked up with Derby’s current Head Athletic Trainer, Rex Schott, when Baum was an athletic trainer student at Wichita State University and Schott was his teacher. From that point the two developed a relationship that has maintained for over 40 years.
“Rex is a friend and my mentor. He is like another brother. He is awesome and amazing and I love that man,” Baum said.
Because of other duties at that time, Schott couldn’t be around all the time, so Baum covered the training details for Derby’s junior varsity and freshmen football teams under Schott’s supervision.
“He was a big help at that time. He learned the stuff, was good at it and the coaches relied on him a lot,” Schott said.
Baum remembers a time during a junior varsity game he says made anything he’s ever done with training worth it.
“There was a kid on the other team that got hurt with a pretty bad injury, and his parents were worried. I got ice on him, and called the doctor’s office. Later, the parents sent a letter to the school thanking me for all my help and assistance, showing their appreciation for everything I did,” Baum explained.
As a volunteer, Baum says all the Derby coaches have always been so appreciative of what he has done.
“Tom Young always appreciated everything I did. He always made sure I was taken care of some way,” he said.
Baum says current coach Brandon Clark has been appreciative as well and says Clark has a spiritual difference that makes him unique.
Baum talks about how he has seen a large number of Derby’s current coaching staff on the field in their playing days.
“I’ve seen coaches Olmstead, Tullis, Hendrick, Devore and others play. I remember when Tullis was a ball boy.” He’s seen many of the coaches’ kids grow up and end up playing too.
It’s not just a love of sports that drives Baum with his duties, but a love for people and especially for kids.
Baum loves being around anything to do with kids and being able to assist them. It is something that he feeds off of. His love for people and helping them no matter whether it’s kids, coaches or whoever is a major part of who Baum is. He says it is the major reason that he has continued to be a part of the staff.
“I think it is really good for him, being around the kids, because of his faith. And he guides kids in the right direction. I think he really enjoys that,” Schott explained.
Baum says his faith is probably the biggest part of why he is still here and in 2013 he got a degree in ministry. In recent years Baum’s volunteer role on the Panther team has shifted. Health issues along with changes in school district insurance policy requirements have impacted his ability to perform his duties.
Baum said at first the cutbacks were frustrating but those around him had suggestions on how he could still play a big role with the team. Paul Wilke, a former character coach and local minister, and Coach Clark told Baum that he was an inspiration to everyone on the team and especially the kids.
Baum’s sister also told him not to throw away all those years he had put in with the program and use the talents he has been given to help others.
Today if you ask Baum what he does with the team, he’ll tell you, “I do a lot of praying for those kids.”
“If a kid goes down, I pray for him. I pray for Rex, that he makes the right decisions. I pray for the team. I pray for the coaches and all the kids,” Baum said.
Baum says he tries to keep an uplifting attitude. One of Derby’s coaches commented that if you ever have a down day or things aren’t going right, you should go talk to Bill.
There is no doubt the new role fits Baum well. He has been involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes for over 10 years. He has been involved with youth ministry since 1980 and has participated in a variety of youth seminars and more.
After 40 years of service to the Panther football program the thought of moving on to something different comes to mind for many, but not Baum, who says he doesn’t have a plan.
“As long as I can be here, walk, move and still enjoy it, I’m going to be here. I love this place,” he said.