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Welsh may be the last of his kind

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POSTED: July 20, 2011 10:22 a.m.

We may not see the likes of Thomson High School football coach Luther Welsh again, at least not in the coaching ranks.
Maybe not in education at all.
And more’s the pity.
Welsh, 78, died July 14 after a long battle with cancer and only months after he stepped down after 54 years coaching — 43 of them as a head coach.
It was a career that deserves the title “legendary.” Welsh won three state titles, all with Thomson and the most recent in 2002, and his teams at Warrenton, Dougherty, Thomson, Camden County, Greene County, Screven County and Thomson (again) went a combined 323-162-5, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
Welsh, a South Carolina native, was an Army veteran, a gentleman, a disciplinarian and he always dealt fairly with us sportswriters. I was lucky to get to interview him a few times and enjoyed it immensely. 
But then, how could one not?
Yet, as a friend of mine noted when word came of Welsh’s passing, he may be the last one to last half a century as a high school football coach — or anywhere near that long.
Why? Simply because the game, kids, parents and society all have changed so much since Welsh’s first season as a head coach in 1954. Not that there’s anything simple about all that.
But whatever the causes, we don’t have the patience we used to, nor do we as a society respect authority figures as we once did. Sometimes, it seems we adults don’t have much patience or respect for other adults at all. Especially those adults who try to coach our kids.
There always have been parents who don’t like their kid’s coach, moms or dads convinced their baby is the best on the team and the coach is an idiot for not recognizing that fact.
And there always have been those frustrated coaches who believe they can do the job better than the guy on the sideline, and they’ll sit in the stands and scream until spit flies out their mouths just to make sure the coach knows it. It goes with the territory.
But it’s somehow different now.
This is the age of the Internet backshooter — those anonymous heroes who populate Internet message boards and blog sites calling for this coach’s job or that coach’s head, their motives always as pure as the driven snow, of course.
And this also is the age where we know everything there is to know about everything — or at least think we do. And what sports fans especially know how to do is coach coaches.
Never mind that prep coaches have to teach classes and pull other duties.
Forget, too, that the job of a high school coach shouldn’t be to get players scholarships or win at all costs, but to teach them the game and the values it imparts.
You know, old-fashioned stuff like hard work and sacrifice and being part of a team striving toward a common goal — and winning, and losing, with dignity.
And finally, never mind that Luther Welsh didn’t start out a legend. He had years where his teams lost more games than they won and in 43 years as a head coach he only won three titles. But there used to be that thing called patience.
About a decade ago, after an ugly incident involving a parent and coach, I had a school administrator tell me there eventually would come a time when it would become almost impossible to find good teachers and coaches, simply because dealing with crazy parents seems to be getting crazier every year.
Maybe that’s a stretch, because there still are plenty of good people out there willing to support good coaches.
But we won’t see many coaches last as long in the business as Welsh.
We’re too impatient to let it happen. And we’re going to be a poorer world for it.

 

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