Lansing, Kansas – January 8, 2024: How far would you go to say thank you to someone who changed your life? As a business executive and owner, Guy Hatch has solved complex problems and earned national and regional awards for excellence, innovation, and quality. But all that may have never happened without the interest and investment of a coach, a farmer, and a teacher decades ago. Like so many, Guy was a kid who needed direction, support, and encouragement. After that, it was just a matter of hard work. And how far did he go to say thank you? Five thousand miles.
The coach, Uno Fredlund, came from Sweden “to teach boys real soccer,” and indeed transformed Guy’s rec-league experience in Northglenn, Colorado, bringing ball-control skills and strategic understanding of the game beyond anything the players had ever seen. The short-term result was a championship-caliber team. Uno, or “Fred” as the players called him, didn’t stop there. He later started a soccer team at the high school and took the young men from nothing to top state rankings—before they had even played a single game.
After that magical first high-school season, Uno moved back to Sweden, but his special interest in Guy continued. Months later, he wrote with a crazy offer: “If you can pay your way here, you can live with us and learn to play soccer the real way.”
The process of cutting and polishing Guy Hatch, rough diamond, had already begun, but now it accelerated. He contacted the Swedish consulate in Denver about a visa, consulted a travel agent about tickets, and hit the first wall: $650 that he didn’t have. What he did have was a relationship with a fellow 4H Leadership Council member and the desperation-driven courage to come up with a plan.
Would that adult counterpart, dairy farmer Dave McIntosh, hire Guy to milk cows? Normally, Dave hired only girls because “Boys get mad, punch the cows in the udder and give them mastitis.” For some reason, Dave was willing to take a risk on Guy, with one condition: “Can you NOT punch the cows?”
Guy’s punishing schedule soon began. “Milk 400 Holsteins and clean the barn from 1:30 to 6:30 am, then go to school,” he said. “After school came soccer practice, homework, and whatever sleep I could fit in before another night shift. The only time off was on mornings of Tuesday and Thursday soccer games so I could get a little more sleep.”
After a long, exhausting fall semester came the training and education in Sweden, and Uno delivered as promised. Guy returned with his skills and field-sense at new heights. “I probably matured 3-4 years’ worth during that 6 months,” he said.
More important, the commitment to get there in the first place paid off in an unexpected way. When there was seemingly no money and no way to go to college, Guy’s teacher Jerry Kemper explained about the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After a representative described the austere environment and demanding schedule, Guy knew he could handle long hours, no TV, and very little sleep . . . “because I had already done it.”
When Guy needed to get to New York for his grueling tenure at the Military Academy, Farmer Dave even advanced him the money for the airline ticket—which Guy paid back with weeks of milking.
“Without soccer and 4H, I wouldn’t have wound up at West Point,” Guy admits. More than the programs, it was the people. Without Uno there would have been no elite skills, and without Dave, there might not have been tickets to the immersive experiences in Sweden and West Point. And, without Jerry, Guy might never have heard about the Academy until it was too late.
In particular, long-term effects of Uno’s influence are still playing out. Ripples of that early story persisted as Guy played competitive soccer into his 40’s and coached along the way: youth, high school, and U.S. Olympic development.
Beyond paying it forward wherever he has been, Guy has naturally underwritten the athletic interests of his children in ways his own parents could not. Not surprisingly, he coached his daughters in soccer. More uncommon, though, when son Cameron and his friends wanted to play hockey, Guy collected the old glass and boards from a renovated rink and set up a hockey facility in the basement. Cameron later became a pitcher in the minor leagues and now develops other pros seeking to improve their performance. His daughters have successful careers in finance and human resources.
All of that coaching and mentoring traces back to a precarious time in the life of a teenager. Sometimes, leaders shepherd others for a season. Other times, the effect lasts a lifetime. In Guy’s case, those caring leaders took the time decades ago “to see through the chaos and guide me gently, sometimes forcefully,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Neither would the scores and generations whom he has in turn influenced.
As Guy has gone around the country with Catalyzer, educating and inspiring leaders at all levels, he has reminded people to thank the mentors who have shaped their skills and careers. Guy himself even decided to deliver that message to his old coach in person.
After decades of long-distance correspondence, Uno was overcome when his protégé showed up last summer in Sweden. “Student and teacher are now reversed,” Uno said. “My life is complete. The circle is closed.”
And for his part, Guy was uncharacteristically emotional. “It was harder—and more meaningful—than I expected: to meet again after all these years, to relive all that he meant to me during a critical period of my life.”
“I’m just glad I made the trip,” Guy said. “You don’t always get a chance to see someone who meant so much or say ‘thank you’ to close the loop.”
Guy’s story reflects the powerful, ongoing change possible when aware, adept leaders see people’s potential and invest in ways that matter. To Uno, that seemed obvious, “Well, of course,” he said decades after coaching and hosting Guy. “It was the right thing to do.”
With Catalyzer, Guy talks with leaders from coast to coast, and when he reminds them to thank those who enabled their success, he starts the clock. “Usually you don’t think to do it until you’re old and sentimental,” he said. “But don’t wait. You can’t do it too soon.”
Catalyzer is a Kansas-based, veteran-owned small business that believes servant leadership drives success and changes the world for the better. “We live out that conviction by offering tailored leadership development programs, one-on-one coaching, integral assessments, and studies that help you better understand your people and their place in your organization,” said Steve Ingalls, president and CEO.
Since inception, Catalyzer has produced and led more than 450 separate programs across diverse industry sectors, developing more than 14,000 leaders nationwide. Organizations served include law enforcement, union/non-union manufacturing companies, community banks and their associations across seven states, engineering companies, and non-profits. Prominent organizations include McDonald’s, Utility Trailer Manufacturing, Tindall Corporation, Trideum Corporation, the Boy Scouts of America, and the County Sheriffs of Colorado.