More than decade after meeting on a middle school basketball court, a coach and player reunite as colleagues
As he stepped through the doors of the Beaverton Transit Center breakroom, TriMet Rail Training Supervisor Anthony Herring stopped in his tracks and did a double-take. At the table in front of him, calmly eating his lunch, was someone he hadn’t seen in more than 10 years.
The face belonged to Ben Meigs.
Anthony remembered Ben as a wiry sixth-grader, shy and a little unsure of himself. Anthony had coached Ben’s middle school basketball team. The kids on the team came from different backgrounds and were just learning what it meant to believe in themselves and trust others. The smallest of the group was Ben, a player Anthony pleaded with to shoot the ball more—to have more confidence in himself.
Now he was a grown man with facial hair, wearing the uniform of a TriMet bus operator.
“I was like, ‘Why are you in uniform?’” Anthony says.
He couldn’t believe his eyes. When Ben responded that he worked for TriMet, all Anthony could say was, “Man, I feel old—I feel real old.”
Confidence started on the court
Before coming to TriMet, Anthony worked for the Boys & Girls Club in Hillsboro, acting as a program director and running programs at J.W. Poynter Middle School. He coached football and basketball, delivered Christmas presents on Christmas Eve and provided a steadying influence to kids who often questioned their place in the world.
That’s where he met Ben, a 12-year-old who avoided groups and activities. He didn’t feel like he belonged and spent a lot of time alone. But he’d always loved sports. Ben says he was attracted to the comradery and sense of belonging that comes with being a member of a team. So he joined the middle school basketball squad that Anthony coached.
Ben was afraid he wouldn’t do well at first because of his height, Anthony says.
“I got a lot of kids who lacked self-esteem,” Anthony says. “Ben was one of those kids who wasn’t sure. He loved shooting the ball. But when it came time to shoot, he would stop. He got scared.”
Anthony pleaded with Ben to shoot more, to use his small height to his advantage, and that’s what Ben did. He started shooting the ball and making three-pointers. The team ended up being very good, Anthony says, and won most of its games.
Ben calls Anthony the best coach he ever had. Anthony is someone whose “superpower” is connecting with people and deescalating tense situations and making everyone feel accepted, Ben says.
“With Anthony, it didn’t matter who you were. You don’t have to be someone special. He spread out his time well and made everyone feel welcome. I preferred him over any other coach.”
Mentoring drives service
Anthony says joining TriMet was the best thing he ever did. He started as a bus driver in 2008 before rising through the ranks, eventually becoming a rail training supervisor. Anthony trains prospective light rail operators on the technical aspects of operating a train, in addition to safety, customer service and performance expectations.
Training supervisors also perform continuing education and evaluations of MAX operators through what are known as check rides. And that’s where Anthony’s mentor/mentee relationship with Ben came full circle. The two found themselves on the same train when Anthony performed a check ride for Ben.
“When I got on the train with him, for a minute I thought, ‘Man, this is crazy. I was coaching him in basketball, and now I’m coaching him as a trainer for trains,’” Anthony says. “It never ends. One of these days he’s probably going to be coaching me.”
Ben says he’ll never stop using the skills Anthony has passed on over the years. The once shy 12-year-old says Anthony taught him to put people first, and that’s something Ben emphasizes when he’s operating a MAX train. He’ll walk through the train to greet passengers or help them with their trips. A passenger recently commended him on being extra courteous, going above and beyond to provide directions that helped them get to their destination.
“I’m using a lot of the skills he’s shown me,” Ben says. “It’s outside of basketball, but it’s a very real, concrete skill I can use every day for the rest of my life—treat everyone with respect. It’s something I’m very thankful for.”