Bob Starkey: More than a winning coach
Coaches influence the outcomes of the games that involve them.
The coaches that are most important influence the people who are associated with their teams … influence their players, managers, assistant coaches, statisticians and trainers.
Winning games becomes less important long after the scoreboards have gone blank and the newspaper articles have yellowed and can’t be read any longer.
Influencing the lives and careers of those who played for the coach has far more importance than the final records listed on a tally sheet kept years and years ago.
Did the players learn to be responsible citizens? When they left school, were they caring and dependable enough to be trusted in the occupation they chose?
While playing for the coach, were they having fun as their formative years flew by? Decades after their experiences had been logged, did they have stories – both humorous and more serious – of what happened at practices, on road trips and during actual games and just after they were finished?
Did the players see loyalty and poise in their coach? Were they witnesses to leadership, fairness and dependability? Had a sense of humor, cheerful attitude and generous nature made their playing experience one remembered with their own smiles and happiness that they had been a part of the coach’s teams?
Coaches come in every stripe and with every personality trait.
A very few are like Bob Starkey … very few.
At Shepherd for 20 basketball seasons, Starkey’s teams won 360 games on the various courts in West Virginia and surrounding states. And then those entertaining athletes and team members went off to be lawyers, superintendents of public school systems, physicians, athletic directors at colleges, school principals, business moguls, teachers and, yes, coaches themselves.
They had seen firsthand how important being available to them after practice and games were finished was to their lives.
How much a cheerful confidant meant. What a sense of humor could do to lighten the load of a college or high school student.
Could they be as respectful, generous, loyal and understanding with their own associates or players?
Bob Starkey was 84 when he passed away last weekend at his home outside Shepherdstown.
His players remember the games against Fairmont, the melee at Frostburg when Starkey’s brother, a former boxer, made sure the team left the gym without post-game injury, the closeness they felt to one another and the traits their coach naturally possessed that made them feel a special part of important things.
They were influenced by an enthusiastic and optimistic coach who was fair, dependable, honest and sincere.
His leadership was almost equal parts wisdom, friendship, consistency, courage, poise, humility and love.
Coaches have influence.
And Bob Starkey’s influence helped his players reach personal heights they would not have gained if not for the confidence he had in them … and the ways he helped them long after they had left Shepherd or the high schools he was involved with in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.