Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Tribute to Coach Herschel Robinson

A Tribute to Coach Herschel Robinson

Today, all work on the novel has ceased. All ideas for my blog are placed from the back burner into the sink. Today was a special day for me. Why? It’s because I got a chance to talk to a man whom I greatly admire and respect, and remember to this day. Today I spoke with Coach Herschel Robinson, who graciously allowed me to interview him. 

‘Hershey’ we sometimes called him after the Hershey bar. He didn’t mind. He knew the term was used with affection. We knew he cared about us. He was always encouraging us, in class and on the field. I remember he put me on the offensive line- once. Heh. The play was something like 23 PIE WHY. I was like, “Pie why? What in the heck is that?” (The play was 23 power, and I was supposed to double team a tackle.) I didn’t say anything, didn’t remember that play in the book, but just went and lined up and got knocked around. Good fun!

He would call to us from the hill overlooking the baseball field where we sometimes ran for endurance. “Hey Houtchens! You’ve been running! Keep it up!” It was so long ago, yet for some reason it was these memories that have stayed with me, like old photographs that have faded with time.

We were crazy, back in the late 70’s. Silly, goofy, crazy teens. We were in the difficult process of growing into the adults we would become, trying to figure things out. He put up with us, because he saw us as people, not as kids that sometimes gave him a hard time. I hope that somehow my own students can see that in me. 

I asked Coach Robinson (he earned his doctorate, but to me Coach Robinson just seems to fit- I hope he does not mind) about his most memorable moments at Ridgeview. When he first arrived, integration was going on. He was one of the very few black teachers at a nearly all white school. He said that one student especially made him feel welcome in his first days- Jimmy Robinson, who later I understand went on to Georgia Tech.  He also mentioned a student who was inspired by his health class to become an MD- David Parks. 

After Ridgeview High, Coach Robinson went to College Park High School as an assistant principal. I asked him how things were different for him as an administrator compared to being a coach, and he knew immediately. “I changed from t-shirts to a shirt and tie, but aside from that it was the same for me. I shared the compassion, respect, vision and hope with everyone that I had for the players.” That sounds so very much like the Coach Robinson I knew back then. Beautiful. 

He had some words for teachers in today’s profession: to keep the vision and hope they had from the foundation they received. These thoughts are timely. For students and perhaps our own kids  (those of us who have them) he also had advice. It used to be in days past teens were told that they could be anything. Today, the message has changed because the world has changed. Students can only become what they prepare themselves to become. If you think about it, that could apply to a lot of things. Students should fill their lives with experiences, good ones, and not fill their lives with excuses. There’s good wisdom there. 

Coach Robinson was troubled by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. He said we can no longer look away from our youth- we need to approach them where they are and inspect what you expect. 

He had some words for all Ridgeview Alumni. He said that we were a special group. That once a Redskin, always a Redskin. That we always had respect. Coach, may I say that that part came easy- we had you there with us to look up to =). God bless you richly!


Armchair coach

Amateur historian