FOUR QUESTIONS: A CONVERSATION WITH… BOBBY GUTHRIE
Bobby Guthrie has excelled as a teacher, coach and administrator during his career. Born in Alamance County, he attended Southern Alamance High School and then graduated from University of North Carolina in 1974, where he was an outstanding baseball player. He started his coaching career by working three years at Scotland High, where he led his team to the NCHSAA state 4-A baseball championship. Then Guthrie embarked on college coaching, including 13 years at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Eventually he became the senior administrator for athletics for the Wake County schools and earned a number of awards there. A former member of the Boards of Directors of both the NCHSAA and the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association, Guthrie has also been recognized nationally for his contributions to coaches education and is a member of the NCHSAAA Hall of Fame.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in high school athletics during your career?
I began coaching at Scotland High School in 1975. A couple of things I have seen deal with specialization by athletes and an emphasis on safety of the athlete. At one time we saw most athletes playing multiple sports, many times playing at least one sport per season. With the changes we have now with more opportunities for someone to play outside of school, and with the change in how colleges recruit, more and more athletes specialize and play one sport. Hopefully we are beginning to see some changes now and in the future due to some prominent doctors discussing the danger of injuries from specialization and coaches encouraging athletes to play multiple sports.
The other major change deals with the safety of the athlete. When I began coaching in 1975, there were no heat guidelines, concussion guidelines, lightning guidelines, etc. Now we have guidelines for those areas and much more. Coaches try to prevent injuries by planning effective and safe practices. We have coaching education classes we can take to help promote the safety of an athlete. The awareness now concerning safety is much greater, and that is a positive for all student-athletes.
You were an outstanding coach as well as an athletic administrator. What did you see as the biggest difference between those two roles, and what things were similar?
First, my approach to coaching and being an athletic administrator were very similar. I tried to keep things as simple as possible. There are job responsibilities, having a plan to deal with those responsibilities, prioritizing, being able to adjust the plan, be aware of everything possible, and to go beyond what the responsibilities required. With that being said, the biggest difference is that coaching required a focus on that particular sport, the fundamentals of the sport, the team and the players. An athletic administrator’s focus must be much wider as you are in charge of the overall athletic program and all sports.
You have been a passionate advocate for coaches education and have been recognized for your efforts. Why do you think coaches education is so important?
Several years ago, I heard a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) officials say that there may not be interscholastic athletics in 25 years. They were saying that the increase in outside of school sports would take over, and sports in schools would no longer be played. This really made me think, because I know what interscholastic athletics can do and provide for a student. I could not imagine students not having an opportunity to play sports at school like I experienced.
So, I got in on the front end of the NFHS Coaching Education Program. I took the Fundamentals of Coaching (FOC) class in Wilmington in 2007 and began teaching the class as an instructor immediately. The FOC was the first class, and now there are 35 coaching education classes, 14 free classes and two certification programs, Accredited Interscholastic Coach (AIC) and Certified Interscholastic Coach (CIC). NFHS Coaching Education classes are education-based, which means that a student learns the same on a field/court as they do in the classroom. The philosophy is student first-athlete second for all NFHS classes.
Interscholastic athletics is education-based athletics. Outside of school sports serve a purpose, but do not have to be educational-based. The NFHS Coaching Education Program has developed classes for all stakeholders (students, parents, fans, coaches, administrators). A very low percentage of high school students will go on to play college or professional sports, but a high percentage of high school students should have the opportunity to participate for their high school. The NFHS Coaches Education and Certification Program can help to provide that opportunity.
Even though you have retired from school work, you are still staying really busy. What are some of the activities you are involved in currently?
My first activity is helping my family, especially helping with my four granddaughters, two of whom were born the month I retired and live close by. I also like helping the NCHSAA, NCADA, NFHS, and NIAAA. For the NCHSAA I have helped with the revision of the NCHSAA Handbook, and help with the basketball state championships. For the NCADA, I have helped develop the NCADA Toolbox, which is an online athletic director resource, and I am also in charge of the Mentoring Program. I am the NIAAA representative on the NFHS Coaching Education committee that meets each October in Indianapolis. I am also the NIAAA Coaching Education Committee Chairperson that helps promote the NFHS Coaching Education Program. We have Section Representatives (8), State Coach Liaisons (29) and Home Run Hitters in each state that I provide monthly NFHS Coaching Education updates. The committee also meets each year at the NFHS/NIAAA Athletic Director Conference. As I told people when I retired, I may have retired from WCPSS, but I have not retired from helping and promoting interscholastic athletics.