January 04, 2012 EditionAlso in this issue...
By Jeff Taylor
Former Hoxie High School student athlete Linda Graddy Black recently came up with the idea to pay tribute to her favorite coach, Bobby C. Watson. She put together a reunion, or an appreciation event, held Friday evening in his honor at Don's Steak House in Walnut Ridge.
It didn't take long for us to see that the outpouring of gratitude for what Coach Watson has done for our community was going to be special. Former Little League boys, softball players, track and fielders, golfers, football and basketball players all stood in line for a chance to spend a few minutes with one of their favorite coaches and to express to him what he meant and just how much he helped shape their lives.
Also present were several parents of those former players who knew and recognized how valuable his lessons were to their children and who just wanted to shake his hand and say, "Thank You."
I saw Coach Watson's former athletes and students bringing their own kids by for the opportunity to meet the man who taught them many of the traits and values of who they now are.
Bobby C. Watson has been in the business of coaching sports since 1950. He started at Western Grove, but Crawfordsville and Hoxie received the most years of his talent and gift of teaching kids to do their best on and off the court or field.
His junior high and high school coaching contests totaled 2,897, and his winning percentage ended at an impressive .569. However, it is impossible to measure his greatest accomplishments. Those were giving that glance when he knew you could do better or that reassuring smile or nod when he knew you gave your best.
Coach Watson brought football back to Hoxie High School in 1969. He provided the opportunity of an AAU Track Club in Hoxie, where kids from all over the county competed with each other and became lifelong friends.
I first met him when I was a young Johnny Bench-wannabe catcher in 1972, when he took over the Walnut Ridge Jaycees summer baseball program. The current Little League ball field is named in his honor.
While he taught us all the fundamentals - sportsmanship, teamwork and skills of our dreams - his wife, Maryann, was braving the mosquitoes and heat, to run the concession stand. His daughter, Judy, coached girls softball, while daughter, Terri, took the gate money. He and his son, Bob Mike, went on to referee football games together until he was 74. His oldest daughter, Robin, was coached by him as well, with several of his kids continuing the family tradition of mentoring youth in sports.
Coach Watson didn't care if you were a Bobcat, Mustang or Zebra, or a good or bad player. He had a way of bringing us all together. We didn't want to let him down, and he brought out the best in all of us.
As we mingled and shared stories of those glory days with our hero and friends, it was apparent that what we brought with us was admiration. Watching him remember 99 percent of his well-wishers after all these years was amazing.
The graciousness, humility and appreciation he expressed to us for remembering him and his family, is yet another one of Coach's life lessons to take to heart, learn and spread into this big old world.
I overheard his grandson, Trey, say before leaving that evening, "I can see a lot of people really love you, Grandpa."
Trey is absolutely right, we do love Coach and there was much love in that room for Coach Bobby C. Watson.
Thanks again to Linda Graddy Black for the evening with Coach. I know many letters were sent to him from those who couldn't attend. Additional comments were left from those there.
I still know to hold the runner at second, and not to throw my bat in anger when I strike out.
Thank you for the fond memories, my friend.
Below are a sampling of comments made about Coach Watson.