A guest on the visitor’s side

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I can remember coaching my first high school game against the Pam Pack at Kugler Field. It was a different feeling, and one that will never be forgotten by me. There were some experiences that I will be happy to share with you and hope that my readers will understand and appreciate.

The first thing we did at that first game was to pull into the back gate and park the bus on the infield beside the locker room. My players knew before they ever got to town that this was my home, and they wanted to win this game. As we left the bus and headed for the JV locker room, I saw two of my friends, Bobby Hardy and Bubba Gerard, were waiting to wish us well. They were old friends but stilled pulled for the Pam Pack.

The locker room smelled like any locker room but had names on the walls printed in magic marker and one player found my name. It was a hallowing experience to say the least but the best was yet to come.

After pre-game warm-ups, back into the locker room I gave my oratory about beating the Pam Pack. We ran onto the field, coming to stand on the visitor’s side. This was really strange to look across the field and see all the blue and white. The old Dr Pepper scoreboard was still up and had the time and score, and I was hoping that eventually we would have more points than the Pam Pack.

Once we kicked the ball off to Washington, I heard a voice that everyone has heard.

“Ah, boy, never been on this sideline before,” said Coach Wagner, standing behind the guide wire. “Just wanted to come and wish you good luck, boy, and stand on your sideline if don’t mind,” he said. This was a real legend, and he had won more games by mistake than I ever did trying. He stood on the sideline right beside me for almost the whole game.

I remember one time we were using motion and Coach said to me, “What you a-doing, boy? You are going to run that boy to death!”

Once I explained to him about motion, he was satisfied. The next big change for him was when we platooned our offense and defense. Now this really confused him. Why you sending them boys out to just play defense, and why can’t they play both ways? My reply was that we never played anyone both ways and really tried to wear the opponent out so we could score more often. That bothered Coach. He said, “All my boys except Wardy played both ways.”

Coach Wagner is a Hall of Fame Coach, and his standing beside me meant more than I could tell anyone. We did not always agree but for four quarters he remained beside me, wearing his rain hat and trench coat. He will never know how much that truly meant to me, and I know now that it had to be an experience for him standing on the visitors sideline for the first time. My own players asked me after the game, who was that older man standing beside me? I told them that if they ever were to coach, like my Coach, I would be there beside them. I think they knew who he was!

Yes, I have learned many valuable lessons in life between two white lines and I hope they have made me a better person today! Thank you, to all my coaches!

Harold Robinson Jr. is a former head coach at Williamston High School for 31 years and a member of the East Carolina University football staff for 12 years.