Coach Guyton: I've got a story to tell
You don’t need approval from Michael Jordan, Kobe or LeBron to understand that winning is always satisfying, but having to take loses along the way, will only make winning that much more rewarding, just ask Union High School basketball coach, Brandoen Guyton.
With another season under his belt as the city’s youngest coach, Guyton, who is a father first (sons Braylen and Kalin Guyton), and coach second, was able to exit from the hardwood, and enter center stage as he shared his story of hitting rock bottom, picking himself back up through the help of family and friends and finding his way into young success. He called it, “Two Sides II a Story,”
“I have been telling this story once a year for the past four years at Union High School,” Guyton said. “I have also shared this story at professional development trainings, as well as the juvenile detention center, but before I continued to share my story at other schools and trainings, I first wanted to share it with my close friends and family members,” said Guyton.
While reflecting on the hard times that sent his life spiraling downhill, one could easily assume his message would be as cliché as saying that someone’s past, does not have to determine a person’s future. While that is very true, despite dealing with a lost loved one, trying to fit in to be what he thought was cool, and even finding himself confined to a street gang, Guyton’s messages were in fact much deeper than making a few life changes, but putting emphasis on being able to overcome barriers in your life, perseverance and keeping faith during the hard times, and that it’s ok to get help when you are battling depression or suicidal thoughts.
Growing up, Brandoen never really had his mother and father by his side to help raise him as his mother had been in and out of jail, battling her own demons, while his father was here and there, but nonetheless, that void was filled by his most beloved family member, Aunt Carolyn, who he remembers being the number one reason why.
“She was my primary care giver,” said Guyton. “Aunt Carolyn was a friend, a mother and my queen. I enjoyed the memories that we shared together and to this day, I am thankful for her invested time into my life…she is the main reason I am who I am today.”
His Aunt Carolyn had passed away, February 2008, causing him to feel empty, and lacked a role model type figure in his life. While Brandoen was unable to replace Aunt Carolyn, or find anyone close to what Aunt Carolyn could offer, he was able to build relationships with other family members, but not before he started making ill-advised decisions, hoping that a gang would provide him with the necessary tools and knowledge to make it through life.
“I wanted to be cool, and that made me a follower,” said Guyton. “I never once sold drugs a day in my life, simply because my brothers wouldn’t allow me to go anywhere near them. I had other hustles to keep money in my pocket such as stealing and breaking into cars, which were my two biggest hustles as a confused 15 year old teenager,” Guyton continued. He also went on to say how fortunate he was to have never been caught. “Luckily, God spared me because there were multiple times that I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, while gun shots were fired…fortunately, I never got caught stealing or breaking into cars, so I knew was blessed.”
When living life in the streets, others unfortunately, do not often get the blessing of seeing tomorrow. After losing his best friend to the streets, it was a real wake up call to Brandoen, letting him know that being invincible was nothing real, although to Brandoen, nothing else in life was either.
“I think we all can relate to hitting rock bottom. For me, I have been there a few different times,” Guyton said. He continued, “After losing my Aunt Carolyn, I wanted to quit and give up on life, and after my best friend Brian was killed, I really wanted to throw in the towel. I asked myself, why does my heart have to feel this type of pain...it's unfair. I was at a point where I was tired of losing close loved ones and I would just sit in my room, eat and sleep and stay in the dark.”
Once he let everything that had happened marinate in his head, things really started to turn.
“In 2013, I was in class at Cornerstone University, and it was Brian's first birthday since he had been murdered. It was a tough day in class that night for me as I actually battled myself for four hours before I ended up leaving class, thinking, hmmm should I run my car off the highway?”
While Guyton’s life was in disarray, deep down, he knew the best solution to his inner battles and encourages anyone who may face suicidal contemplation to come to the same conclusion.
“I knew what the solution was, and that was to seek professional help,” said Guyton. “Counseling was the best thing that could’ve happened to me while I was in slight depression. I got help before it got worse, and on the outside I was fine, becoming the youngest coach in the state of Michigan at Creston High School, later getting another chance at Union, making it seem as if life was going well…but deep down, I was hurting, and I knew I needed help and although I rarely said much about it and ashamed to get the help I needed, it made a difference.” Guyton continued, “my advice to anyone who is dealing with any type of depression or suicidal thoughts, get help. Please don’t try to handle these situations on your own because it will be so much harder on your life.”
While Brandoen was already living with his Uncle Art, God sent even more family to Brandoen's side, including his father. Brandoen’s Aunt Kimbery Schley, who too was in attendance at his seminar, spoke highly of the family man and coach, saying she has been in his life for 13 years now, and says she was blessed to have been one of many family contributors, able to step in and help Brandoen pick himself up during such dark times.
“Brandoen was looking for a street role model, someone to look up to, someone to fit in with, not knowing that the streets and the “in crowd” were going to get him killed, Schley said. “It took a collective effort from the family and myself to believe in him until he was able to believe in himself that he could turn his life around and achieve success.”
“I met Aunt Kim during fall 2004 when she had married my Uncle Stan and grew very close with her when she moved to Grand Rapids in 2008,” Guyton said. “Aunt Kim was one of the important factors in getting me enrolled in college. I always laugh about how she would often call to yell at me to make sure I got my life in order, and some days I wanted to listen and other days I didn’t.”
Judging by his position in life today, it’s evident Brandoen listened to his aunt as well as other supporting family members and took his mental notes, finding hope through coaching at the age of 23, which is why today’s youth are now listening to him and his comeback win story. Looking back, Brandoen now has a new perspective for those who grow up, looking to “fit in.”
“Being successful should be the new cool. I get it, hanging around your home-boys or home-girls sometimes fills that void of love, but when they’re making poor choices, it can affect you for the rest of your life. I know it may sound easy now, being that I’ve passed that stage, but believe me, don’t get killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time because your life is far more valuable than trying to fit in,” Guyton said passionately.
While the 27 year old basketball coach was looking to reach out and inspire all youth from the ages of 12-18, he got just that and then some, noting that there was a wide range of ages in the audience.
“Man, Coach Guyton is cool with everybody, and he’s more of a family member and mentor than a coach,” said graduated senior Jared Sietsma. He continued while laughing, “the guy just has so much heart, and I think he likes to win more than the players at times. He’s really just someone you can trust with anything you tell him, and as a coach, he’s pretty clear cut and the one thing I’ve learned as a player, is that if you just stop and listen to him, you’ll learn so much more beyond the basketball court, and that’s what really made his presentation special”
Chnell Blaylock, friend of Guyton and mother of three, described Guyton as one of the “good guys,” someone who has always carried himself well and also said she had even more respect for him after attending his seminar.
“I didn’t know the old Brandoen, so to hear all of the challenges he faced then, up until now to see him as he is now, I just have even more respect for him, and I still can’t believe he was once a follower” said Blaylock. She also went on to say that his message extends past the youth. “Whether you’re an adult male, single mother, young woman, the message still hits home…anyone can learn from being a follower, but true knowledge is tested and rewarded when being yourself or becoming a leader. Life isn’t just about being popular, or “the man.”
Senior forward Mike Heard even chimed in saying, "With Coach Guyton, it's always academics first...I see him like the father I never had."
When asked if there was anything that he gained from hosting his own seminar, he paused and said, “I was so overwhelmed by all the love and support that I received. What mostly caught my attention was the impact that it had on everyone that came out to support. Someone even texted me the night after the event and said, “You saved my life, glad I am not alone.” What else can I say after that?”
Guyton has had his fair share of ups and downs in life but vows to keep pushing towards greatness. As his journey in life continues, he too will make it his personal goal to reach out and touch as many youth and adult lives as he can through his Two Sides II a Story seminar.
“It goes to show you that when the odds are all against you, we can overcome those odds, said Guyton. “We will have good days and we will have bad days, but at the end of the day, I am blessed to be able to show someone, that growing up going through trials and tribulations, success will be at the end of the tunnel.”
The most touching part of Guyton’s story is not only did he find success after defeating his adolescent troubles, but over the years he has been able to mend a relationship with his mother and father.
“Despite living all the way in Texas unable to come, I would like to thank my Aunt Michelle Little-Allen who had and still has a huge role in my life. I too would like everyone who learns my story, to know that my mother Angela Little and father Izell Guyton as well as myself, have really grown to develop a really strong bond over the years,” Guyton said proudly.
No matter if you win or lose, the most important thing in life is to enjoy what you have, and what Brandoen has is another shot at life, and a chance to encourage the lives of many as a coach, and as a once broken black man.