Coach Randy Ragsdale:
A Look Back and Ahead
“I’ve been allowed to be around so many outstanding boys and their families and outstanding coaches and their families. I’m thankful for the many lasting friendships and relationships that I’ve been able to develop.” — Randy Ragsdale
In twenty-eight years of coaching football at Trinity Presbyterian School he has secured 243 victories, five area championships, nine regional championships, twenty-five playoff appearances and a 4-A State Championship.
But, spend any amount of time with Randy Ragsdale and it becomes glaringly obvious that more important than the accolades are the relationships he has nurtured. When asked what has given him the greatest sense of accomplishment over the years of coaching, Ragsdale did not recite a list of achievements: “I’ve been allowed to be around so many outstanding boys and their families and outstanding coaches and their families. I’m thankful for the many lasting friendships and relationships that I’ve been able to develop.”
Coaching, for Ragsdale, is more than just developing technical skills. It’s an opportunity to pass along important and lasting life lessons: “I wanted the young men who came through our program to understand personal accountability and the impact of their choices. I wanted them to learn not to allow past disappointment and failure to keep them down, but, to remember the lessons.” Other character traits he hoped to instill: “Perseverance and diligence. Choose to be an encourager. Demonstrate humility. Learn to forgive one another. Completely finish what you start. Learn to accept your role,” — all admirable qualities that are just as important off the football field as on.
Coach Rags explains yet another important life lesson learned from the game: “Responding positively and purposefully to sudden change. I want them to learn to respond and not react.” He also acknowledges the courage it takes for many of the young men to step onto the field: “I have to applaud them. They’ve made the decision to step into something that might make them a little afraid and to be able to have courage to say ‘I want to give this a try.’” “And there’s so much more to it than what they can clearly see. There are practices in the summer; the labor and toil that bonds them in the weight room — a classroom that can be considerably challenging and difficult at times; the gasping for breath when I say ‘back on the line we’re going to do it again’; and the crushing feeling of a team loss. They are challenged to develop mental toughness.”
The lessons he hopes the young men learned from the game and their participation in a Varsity sport are lessons that Ragsdale hopes will be passed down through the generations, “When you look at the values that are imparted, my hope would be that if they’re allowed, those are values they can pass on to their children and grandchildren and maybe even the next generation will pass it on.”
Of course there are plenty of smiles and lighthearted experiences, too. “The feeling of their first Varsity Football game when they got to put on a uniform, the bus rides, friendships they made, laughing at me and with me and of course the exhilaration of a tremendous team win.” Ragsdale continues, “I would hope there was a thrill to it, some butterflies. But my biggest hope is that it was good for them.” It’s apparent when visiting with Coach Rags that he understands and has empathy for the struggles of young people. It shows in the way he talks about his former players and it drives him to continue to be involved in all of their lives. Although he’s retiring from coaching football he’s not walking away from the kids. He will still hold his position as Dean of the Middle School.
Again, it’s a matter of that one special thing, “It comes down to the relationships.” “Nothing beats sitting down and looking across at somebody and listening to them and possibly coming up with a solution to a problem,” he remarks. “To walk away with a handshake, a hug or maybe even a tear. The opportunity for that relationship to build is something that is so rewarding.” “When they come to you they are all searching for something. They are searching for validation and unconditional acceptance for who they are. They want you to be able to look past some of their idiosyncrasies — like when they are timid or boastful to cover up for the fact they are a little afraid. If I make the choice not to listen to the heart of a young person — I am just wrong. My hope is each day — I choose to listen.”
There is also another relationship that Ragsdale values of which he speaks, “I’ve got to make an intentional choice when I first open my eyes every day to choose God — to love Jesus — that’s a renewable decision each morning.” And although the Friday night lights are not centerstage for him anymore, he still considers himself to be on a team with the rest of the faculty and staff, encouraging the young people to make the changes in their lives that will help them grow. “I still see my self as coaching. I’m right in the thick of it.”