Make Hay While the Sun Shines
A 2-year-old named Ryder Coats is the reason a nationally recognized Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) athlete sits in University of Idaho’s distance education classrooms in Boise.
That athlete, Mitch Coats, said having Ryder made him think about how he could set an example to invest in the future and build a strong work ethic for his son.
Coats said that is why he decided to take on a heavy workload as a full-time student in UI’s Agricultural and Extension Education program in the Treasure Valley, studying agricultural science, communication and leadership through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
His degree is part of the of the 2+2 matriculation program between College of Western Idaho (CWI) and UI, in which students attend two years at CWI and transfer to a distance education program to attain their four-year degree from UI.
The 35-year old said the demands of raising a child and attending school full-time are matched by the BJJ gym he runs and owns, his lobbying internship at Food Producers of Idaho and his 55-acre cattle operation.
Despite that cattle operation, the BJJ black belt said his interest in agricultural science doesn’t stem from an agricultural background or growing up on a farm. It began when he rode bareback in rodeos in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa when he was teenager.
Being around stock contractors in those rodeos sparked an interest that later developed into the 18-head cattle operation he now runs in Emmett. He is interested in high-end Wagyu beef as a long-term investment and as another way to show his son how to work hard.
“I wanted him to grow up with the work ethic that comes with taking care of animals because it's a 24-7 job,” Coats said.
Coats is also busy on Capitol Hill in Boise for his lobbying internship.
Rick Waitley, executive director of Food Producers of Idaho, said Coats attends legislative meetings, takes notes and writes for the organization’s Friday newsletter, Capitol Review, among other duties.
Coats was referred to Waitley after he completed an internship at Dale Dixon Media.
Waitley, who graduated from UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences with a degree in agricultural education in 1973, said the fact that Coats is a student while interning for Food Producers of Idaho is irregular, but that the lobbying internship will give him a unique opportunity to build networking and relationship-building skills.
Waitley said the internship will provide Coats an opportunity to grow outside the classroom.
“I think Mitch has been really, really surprised about the process. He was a very successful business person,” Waitley said. “He has a lot of connections, but I really think this has been a different experience from what he thought.”
Coats said the internship is helping him grow in new ways.
“I’ve learned how to navigate the legislature and the little nuances that come with that environment,” Coats said.
That internship and his classes have added new knowledge to his skill set built partially by a decade of successful business ownership.
Eleven years ago before Coats opened his gym that now has about 175 students, he trained and competed in Brazil.
“I never got into jiu jitsu to be a business owner. I did it because I have a passion,” Coats said. “There was no money in it when I got into it.”
He started judo when he was five years old and wrestled throughout primary and secondary school, eventually ending up coaching in the UFC.
The discipline required to excel in combat sports translates to the classroom, but he still has a lot to learn, Coats said.
“Being around academics and teachers has kind of humbled me in a lot of ways because they are the gatekeepers and they hold the keys to amazing opportunities like the one I'm in now,” Coats said.
Coats, a first generation college student with a 4.0 GPA, will graduate in the fall semester of 2018. He said he is looking into continuing his education with the UI College of Law to explore more opportunities related to becoming a lobbyist.
Story by Jake Smith, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences