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Learning by the example of others

Tracey and I have just finished watching an afternoon of collegiate football and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. I have heard the word “Coach” applied to many big name coaches that get paid millions of dollars to do what they love. It makes me wonder if the late Coach Clyde Harding ever made that much in all of his years as a coach. The term coach is something that is earned, not given, and Coach Harding certainly earned that title and will forever be called Coach Harding by those that knew him!

As a young boy growing up behind Washington High School, I had the chance to play basketball in the gym after school was out and no coach ran me away. There were many afternoons that I would see Coach Harding in his overalls, standing in the back of the gym talking with Coach Wagner about football. He never tried to fool anybody. He was a ball coach, and that was all he wanted to be. I asked many times who that gentleman was and the answer was always Coach Harding.

When talking with Coach Dewayne Kellum about Coach Harding, he told me many things that Coach did to help the athletic program and his players at Chocowinity High School. Coach Harding was a history teacher by profession but coached all three sports while teaching. He took the players’ uniforms home and washed them in every sport for his players. If they did not have any money, he would give them a summer job in tobacco or just hand it to them, if in a real need. He purchased the first two activity buses for the athletic program and built Chocowinity into a 1A power in all sports.

I can remember playing one of his teams while on the JV team at Washington, and I have never been hit so hard. They were scrappy and played hard all the time. In fact, Laverne Parker broke my arm in that game but it was a clean hit, and I could never fault Laverne. He became one of my best friends because of that experience. Yes, Coach Harding’s teams played hard, and it was he who instilled the work ethics that many young men on the south side of the river have today. They will tell you that, and the example he set is what many of them live by today.

Our society today could use more Coach Clyde Hardings in the coaching profession and, in general, leading young men. The burly man in the overalls, standing in the back of our gym, was a true legend to all he came in contact with. The one facet of his life that amazes me is he never wanted any credit for his success and never asked for any accolades — give them to his players! I am sure that I speak for every life that he touched when I say a simply, “Thank you, Coach Harding, for all you did for me and the role model you gave all of us in our formative years.” If there is anyone who deserves to be in the NCHSAA Hall of Fame, it is certainly Coach Clyde Harding!

For the young people who never had the chance to know Coach Harding, I am sorry, because you would have been all been a better person for knowing him! Dewayne Kellum and I are, and appreciate him showing us what makes a person a good coach: caring about their players.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.