What happens when a professional life coach gets involved with a team of young athletes? They start winning — not just games but in life.

It all started when the Copperas Cove High School football coach asked the team’s physician, Dr. William Marsh, if his wife would be willing to talk to a few of the players.

Rebecca Marsh, a clinical psychologist, mother of two, and former commissioned medical officer in the Army, agreed to speak to the boys but wasn’t sure what to expect or if she’d even be able to help.

“I suspected the boys might be a little reluctant to talk to me, but our first meeting proved to be even more difficult than I imagined,” she said. “They weren’t happy about the coach sending them to me. They just sat down, kept their arms crossed and wouldn’t even give me any eye contact.”

If the big burly football players thought they were going to intimidate the petite doctor, they were in for a surprise. Comparing herself to the outspoken and direct TV psychologist Dr. Phil, Rebecca says she’s not the type to hold anything back.

“I just call it as I see it. And so I told them, ‘You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to. If you’re happy with your life and the direction it’s headed, then go on and get out of my office and don’t come back. But if you want a better future for yourself — and one without gangs, drugs, violence or jail — then you have to start making better choices now. Nobody’s going to do it for you. It’s all up to you.’”

Eventually the boys started to open up and talk to Rebecca. Soon they were all smiles when they saw her and even called her “Mom.”

“Without positive role models in their families, these boys didn’t have a chance. They were smart kids who just needed a little attention and direction,” Rebecca said. “They did want a better life; they just didn’t know where to begin.”

The players she still refers to as “my boys” are doing great now, she says. Many of them received full-ride scholarships and moved off to colleges such as Rice University and California State. A few others joined the military, and one is a commissioned officer in the Navy.

These success stories led Rebecca to creating “YES to Success” (Youth Experience Success), a program for at-risk youths that was adopted by the Copperas Cove school district.

“They saw a difference and were happy to work with me to implement it,” Rebecca said. “There are other districts around Central Texas who are also having similar, if not worse problems, and would greatly benefit from YES to Success. Even though I’ve offered it to them, they aren’t taking the steps to implement it, which is frustrating. There are so many kids out there who need help and some of them are running out of time.”

A lover of outdoor activities, Rebecca caught the softball bug when her 12-year-old daughter started playing. Frustrated by the overly competitive parents who stacked teams and controlled local leagues, Rebecca and her husband decided to sponsor their own softball team, The CenTex Edge. They hired some girls from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor softball team to coach it, and the Marshes pay for all the players lessons, uniforms, tournament fees and travel, hotel and food expenses.

“We’re happy to be in a position where we can sponsor a team. Many of the girls wouldn’t have an opportunity to play on a traveling team otherwise,” Rebecca said. “Last year, I got to take the team to Florida to play in the World Series at Disney World. I am so proud of them. We’re just a little team, but they fought their way from the bottom all the way back up to the top and made it to the final round before the championship before getting knocked out.”

While she enjoys winning games and trophies, Rebecca became a softball mom for another reason.

“Some may think I’m just one of those crazy sports nuts, but I’m not. In fact, it isn’t even about sports at all,” she said. “It’s about taking advantage of an opportunity to spend time with young girls and to connect, bond and mentor them, and an opportunity to teach them they have substance and value and that there’s more to them than just a pretty face and nice body.

“I know I’m only one person, but I can still make a positive difference in the world ¬— changing the lives of youth.”

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