The first thing Scott Pherson wanted to do when leaving the hospital after his son had died was go to the gym and work out as hard as his son had battled.
Griffin Scott Pherson lived from 12:15 to 2:20 a.m. March 19, 2017. His father, the first-year strength coach and boys track coach at Columbus East, remembers him as a fighter.
Scott Pherson, an Anderson native, had spent the past few years as an assistant football, basketball and track coach at North Central High School in Farmersburg, about 15 miles south of Terre Haute. He took over as head boys basketball coach last year, and he and his wife Lauren were expecting their second child about six weeks after the season was over.
A month before the due date, Lauren experienced bleeding and was rushed to Union Hospital in Terre Haute. When they arrived, Griffin had a faint heartbeat.
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Griffin was 20 inches long and weighed 8 pounds with very little blood in his system when he was born. Doctors said he had kicked the umbilical cord, which caused it to become not fully attached.
“He fought for 2 hours and 5 minutes to meet us,” Scott Pherson said. “The first thing that I attempted to do when we left the hospital a couple days later, I just went to the gym, and I tried my hardest to fight like he fought and give it everything I had. I wanted to make him proud of me, and I’ve pretty much put my head down and worked ever since.”
Leaving North Central
Pherson was content at North Central. He had a solid support system there and enjoyed working with the kids.
When his students found out he was going to be a father for the second time, they wrote him notes. One said, “Congrats on the baby boy. You’re such a great dad and coach.”
After Griffin died, Scott looked at the note every day, but didn’t have the heart to take it down.
Last summer, Scott found out about the strength opening at East. It had been the Ball State graduate’s dream to become a strength coach.
“I was OK with being (at North Central), but then after everything that happened, I put myself out there just a little bit more,” Pherson said. “I don’t know if I came here sort of trying to escape it or what, but it was hard to be in that classroom at North Central afterward.”
The summer was kind of a blur for Pherson. He remembers going to North Central’s football team camp at Manchester, then interviewing for the East job and taking it a week or two later.
North Central head football coach Travis Nolting, who Pherson considers a tremendous mentor, had encouraged Pherson to pursue his dream. But telling his players he was leaving wasn’t easy.
“It was extremely tough,” Pherson said. “I remember being in the locker room telling the football kids that summer that I had taken a job at East, and I was going to come out here to be the head strength coach. I maybe got through a couple words of it before I started crying. Travis pretty much had to tell them for me because I couldn’t really talk. I love those kids, and I miss those guys.”
Coming to Columbus
The first few weeks after taking the job at East, Pherson commuted from his home in Terre Haute.
The 3½-hour round trip gave Pherson plenty of time to reflect.
“(Griffin’s death) pretty much broke us,” Scott said. “It still is extremely tough. I was still commuting from Terre Haute when I first got here, and it’s a long drive, so it’s a lot of time to cry in the car.”
For most of the first semester, Pherson stayed with East boys basketball coach and assistant athletics director Brent Chitty during the week. The Phersons’ home in Terre Haute sold in November, and the family moved to Columbus.
During the time Pherson was still commuting, he drove past Lucas Oil Stadium twice a day. He thought if he could help the Olympians get there and win a state football title, Griffin would be proud of him.
“I hope that I did make him proud,” Scott said. “I just want him to have a positive impact in this world any way that he can.”
The Griffin Scott Workout
Soon after Pherson began at East, he shared his story with his students. One of them, Kendal Williams, decided to put together the workout honoring Griffin for her senior project.
Pherson had the idea of doing the 2-hour, 5-minute workout to honor Griffin’s life. Williams, who is headed to Indiana University-Kokomo on a volleyball scholarship, took the idea and ran with it.
“I told her I’m going to come in that day, and I’m going to work out for the time he was alive to honor him,” Pherson said. “I want people to know his name, and that’s the only way that I could think of to do it. I’m glad that she had the idea to go on with it because I want him to have an impact in this world because he impacted me. She’s kind of set it up and made it her mission. I couldn’t be more thankful for what she’s been able to do for me.”
From 12:15 to 2:20 p.m. Sunday, people will have a chance to do the Griffin Scott Workout at East. They can lift in the weight room, play basketball in the main gym, do physical fitness in the auxiliary gym, walk or run on the track and play ultimate Frisbee on the football field.
The workout is free to anyone of all ages. Participants can write notes to someone for whom they are working out and tie the notes to balloons, which will be released at the end of the workout.
“At the beginning of the year, we wrote our goals on the mirrors (in the weight room),” Williams said. “His goals were to make his son proud, and he kind of shared his life story with us. It kind of got me thinking, ‘Let’s do something for him.’ I didn’t have a senior project at the time, but he’s been very gracious enough to allow me to come in here and have a senior project for his son and for everyone else to come in here and support him and us support them, as well.”
So now, instead of doing the workout by himself, Pherson will be surrounded by plenty of other people who have a similar purpose.
“It was going to be just for me to vent, but it’s going to become a way for anyone that’s going through something,” Pherson said. “Do it for someone that is no longer with you because everyone is fighting for something.”
Name: Scott Pherson
High school: Anderson
College: Ball State (degrees in physical education and school health)
Certifications: Performance Enhancement Specialist License from National Academy of Sports Medicine, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist license from National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA Weightlifting Sports Performance coach
Occupation: Strength and conditioning teacher, head strength coach, head boys track coach and assistant football coach at Columbus East High School
Family: Wife Lauren, daughter Phoenix Rose, son Griffin Scott (deceased)
What: Griffin Scott Workout
When: 12:15 to 2:20 p.m. Sunday
Where: Columbus East High School (meet at athletic entrance at noon)
Activities: Lifting in weight room, basketball in main gym, physical fitness in auxiliary gym, walking and running on the track, ultimate Frisbee on the football field