Why Ronnie Coker will always be 'school dad' to Airline’s Jaci Ervin

Jaci Ervin
Special to Shreveport Times

Editor’s note: A 2020-21 Times All-Region volleyball team selection, Jaci Ervin plans to study medicine at Louisiana-Monroe this fall after graduating from Airline High in May with a 3.8 unweighted GPA. She submitted the following comments, lightly edited for clarity and brevity, about Viking athletics director Ronnie Coker, who is battling colon cancer.

Coach Coker is a father figure in my eyes. Every day he would encourage me to "be great and make a difference." 

He always saw the best in me even when I would have a bad day. During some rough times in my life, coach Coker was there for me in ways I could not have imagined. I always felt as if I could go to him if I ever needed help or if something was ever wrong. 

Freshman year, when I met him, I was slightly skeptical because of the initial freshman intimidation on top of being presented with such a vibrant personality. Throughout my high school career, we grew closer and flourished my senior year when I had the honor of being in one of his career mentorship classes. It was during this class that we came up with a routine through the duration of the class. We would meet every day and present each other with a word of the day — sometimes these words were phrases, single words, or acronyms containing positive words for us to focus on throughout the day. 

Airline's Jaci Ervin

TOP ATHLETE: Airline's Jaci Ervin wins Times Athlete of the Week

These words helped get me through some rough patches in life and also gave me a goal. Coach Coker began coming out every morning not only to speak with my younger sister and I, but also to ensure my safety, which meant a lot to my family and I.

I often refer to him as my "school dad" because of the relationship we have. We still talk and check up on each other. In fact, coach helped me get my first job this summer working in a medical environment to go along with my future plans. 

Airline vs. Ruston Tuesday, October 22, 2019 evening at Airline High School. Jaci Ervin

Upon finding out the news regarding his health, I was heartbroken, but our many words of encouragement began to flourish during this time. A cancer diagnosis is not the news anyone would like to hear, but your perspective on the situation can change a lot. 

Our words throughout the year taught both of us to see the world from different views and to find the positive in every situation, which allowed us to grow closer and enjoy every small moment in life. Coach Coker is such an inspiration to me and in the lives of so many others. 

Former Airline athletic director Ronnie Coker poses with 2021 Airline graduate and volleyball standout Jaci Ervin.

And his loving character has impacted my life in many ways, creating a lasting bond between us. I absolutely love my school dad.