He made a pretty significant mistake. Some might call it a failure. Maybe a failure in judgment. Maybe a failure in managing risk. Maybe a failure in seeking to know relevant information before making an informed decision. The world watching is not aware of the circumstances that caused "Coach Ake" to lead a group of 12 boys into life-threatening conditions, so we are left to presume.
Starting With the Facts
Here is what we do know. Coach Ake was orphaned at age 10, and out of that experience he became a novice monk. He spent years in the monastery, leaving in his 20's to help care for his aging grandmother. While caring for her, he took the job as the assistant coach to the Wild Boars Soccer team.
We also know that Coach is "stateless", which is defined as "someone who does not have a nationality of any country," also noting that "some people are born stateless, while others become stateless over the course of their lives." Most of the stateless from Thailand are from hill tribes, with ancestral ties to their territory and ethnically different from the Thai majority. Others are children of illegal migrants who fled to Thailand. While Thailand now has a way for those that are stateless to become citizens, many are uneducated on what it takes to do that.
Another fact is that the Wild Boars Soccer club, consisting of multiple teams, is designed to take those boys that, for social or capability reasons, did not make their school team. Three of the Wild Boars trapped in the cave are also stateless and not recognized as citizens of Thailand (or any country for that matter).
The soccer club was founded to give local schoolboys in this impoverished community a place to go after their teachers had gone home. The founder states, “We are the club that would welcome and train anyone that wanted to play football.” While the soccer team does not generally carry bragging rights of a winning record, they boys celebrated their first region tournament win this past May.
We also know some things about the head coach, who was not with them in the cave, and left to suffer many sleepless nights worrying about his assistant coach and team that were lost and trapped. We know that his work with the Wild boars consumes him and his passion is to mentor them towards professional leagues, giving the under-privileged boys a chance at a successful future - and several of his previous boars have been scooped up by paying leagues. He spends 6 to 7 days a week with these boys and the assistant coach. He states that, “If they are sick, I take medicine to their homes. If they are in hospital, I stay with them there." He coaches, not because of his love for soccer - matter of fact, he's never been a soccer coach before in his life - but because he wants to help these boys achieve their dreams.
Back to Coach Ake. While in the cave, he ate as little as possible, with some reports saying the first 4 days he ate nothing - giving all of the food to the boys. He taught them to meditate, keeping them calm in the life-threatening situation. He gave them pointers to keep them safe, such as to move as little as possible so that you don't burn energy, and to drink the water dripping from the cave, rather than the muddy flood waters. We know he was the last one to emerge from the cave. The condition of the boys, both physically and emotionally, is largely attributed to the leadership of Coach Ake within the cave, and the fight for victory in soccer and in life, that these boys have experienced thus far in their short lives.
And finally, we know that the parents and community members that know Coach Ake, not one single person has dared to utter a negative word or point blame at the coach for the unlikely circumstances. Something the rest of the world didn't necessarily follow suit with. While many questioned his judgment, those who had much more reason to blame the young coach, hailed him as a hero.
Let's Look at Why and What We Can Learn