by Spencer Haynes
Developing relationships on the football field has been senior punter Lester Coleman’s favorite part of playing the game. Those relationships have grown even more through Coleman’s other favorite pastime, playing golf.
“I love golf,” Coleman said. “[Long Snapper] Joe Spaziani and I play golf a lot together. That’s probably why we’re so close. We are big fans of golf and we talk about it all the time.”
College football players might be talking about golfers, but Coleman thinks the reverse is true too.
“It’s funny, because when golfers are playing, they’re talking about college football a lot of the time,” Coleman said.
Golf is not only a hobby for Coleman. It provides an opportunity for him to work on the mental aspects of punting. He particularly pays attention to Fred Couples who is his favorite player on the Tour.
“I am a huge Fred Couples fan,” Coleman said. “I love his demeanor. I love the way he approaches the game. It might sound corny, but I actually watch a lot of [golf] interviews.”
Outside of Couples, one of the golfers he studies the most is Phil Mickelson.
“I think Mickelson is great,” Coleman said. “The way he talks to the media, the way he is excited about the process, the way he talks about the challenges. His mindset is part of what makes him so good. I watch those guys a lot to see what they are saying, because no one is interviewing NFL kickers and punters. I don’t know what they are thinking, whereas golfers are a close equivalent.”
The calmness in the game of Couples has made an impact on Coleman.
“He is extremely laid back,” Coleman said. “He has this one quote where he talks about, if he has a bad day it’s okay, because he’s out there for rest and relaxation. When you approach the game in that way, you are bound to do better.”
Coleman’s study of golfers might be part of the reason he has had such strong success on the football field. He finished fourth in the ACC in punting last year, averaging over 43.7 yards a boot and punting an ACC high 23 times over 50 yards.
There is more to Coleman than golf. His biggest passion lies in serving others.
“Once I got to Grounds, I wanted to use the scaffolding, I guess you could say, to give back and hang out with younger kids,” Coleman said. “I have tutored three or four different classes. I’ve coached a sixth- and seventh-grade recreational basketball team, I’ve been involved with Relay for Life, Green Dot and a couple of other organizations like that. It’s been awesome.”
Coaching sixth and seventh graders in basketball is the volunteer opportunity that still sticks with him.
“It was extremely difficult, and it gave me a greater appreciation for the UVA coaching staff and what it takes to be a coach,” Coleman said. “I am so proud of the guys I had, because the first year we did not win a single game. It was a sixth- and seventh-grade basketball league and we were all sixth graders. When they all came back a year later, we were much better.”
Being able to establish continuity and witness transformations in the lives of the middle schoolers was more important to Coleman than the team winning games.
“Middle school is such a hard but important time in your life,” Coleman said. “It was really awesome to be a part of their lives for that little bit.”
His time spent in service to others has inspired Coleman to seek a job after college where he can invest in the lives of others. He currently attends the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at UVA where he will eventually receive a master’s degree in public policy.
“I think it is important in life to pursue something that you are passionate about,” Coleman said. “I like an intense work environment that’s going to be a fight every day like football. I think that is where [Public Policy] is really cool, because you can take something that you are passionate about, work really hard at it and make a contribution to society, which is huge.”
As Coleman continues both his professional and academic career, he will continue to enjoy the moment.
“The first game I ever actually played in was against William and Mary,” Coleman said. “I can still remember walking out of the tunnel, and I remember saying to myself, ‘Well this day has finally come. I can’t believe it, but let’s go out and enjoy it. There’s no pressure.’ Even making it to the moment, was awesome for me.”
As he enjoys each moment, remembering where he has been and looking to go further than he is now, Coleman will continue to take each moment with his laid-back style.