Ronald Vincent, whose teams have won more high school baseball games in North Carolina than any other coach, was inducted into the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame on Saturday night during a suitably elegant affair.
Vincents teams have won 845 high school baseball games. If a first-year high school coach wanted to match the man known as R.V., the rookie coach would have to average more than 20 wins per year until at least 2056.
Vincent had a word for that rookie coach, and for essentially every other high school coach, too, during his induction at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.
Its a game, Vincent, 66, said. It is a game played by our children. Were going to enjoy that every day.
Harry Jones, a baseball coach at Millbrook, Panther Creek and now Broughton, said he learns something every time he gets to see Vincent conduct a practice.
He just knows so much baseball, Jones said. And he communicates it so well.
One of the most important things he communicates to his players is to have fun playing baseball. During an era when most high school baseball teams have 12 to 14 players, Vincents Greenville Rose teams usually have about 30.
Other coaches consider him to be a magician for that reason alone. How does he keep 30 players, and their parents, placated when less than half of the roster routinely plays in games?
It goes back to playing baseball, Vincent said. If youre on the team, you get to go play baseball every day. Practicing baseball is fun. You get to run and throw and catch and hit the ball. Thats fun. And if youre on the team you get to do that every day.
Lindsey Linker, an inductee whose boys and girls tennis teams at Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill High have won 14 state dual-team titles and more than 600 matches, said one of keys to her success is stressing to her players that they are playing for something bigger than themselves.
With so many tournaments and rankings, the players become me focused, Linker said. We ask them to leave that at the gate when they play for us. They play for themselves nine months a year, but we ask them to play for the team for the three months they are on the team. The good ones like that.
Shelly Marsh, whose boys basketball teams won 533 games at Pitt County Robinson, Greenville D.H. Conley, Havelock and West Johnston, said building the idea of team play might be harder today than ever.
When I first started coaching, what I said was Gospel, he said. Toward the end of my career, parents always had questions.
Giving young coaches the opportunity to learn from coaches like Vincent, Linker and Marsh is important, said Bobby Guthrie, another inductee and the former senior administrator for athletics for Wake County Schools.
Guthrie is among the national leaders in the development of coaching education programs and teaching coaches how to be better high school coaches.
We need to take the wisdom of the Ronald Vincents and Lindsey Linkers and share it with other coaches, Guthrie said. We need to help coaches become better coaches.
Davis Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner, said coaches are a North Carolina treasure.
The goals of high school athletics are different from other levels of competition. High school athletics are designed to make better people, not just better athletes.
And in the process, it is supposed to be fun.