Bubba Williams and Travis Gaster thought they got some idea of what it took to be a successful high school football coach while growing up.
Williams, the first-year head coach at Corinth Holders, idolized his father, Chip, a highly-successful coach everywhere he went across Eastern North Carolina (including South Johnston and New Bern).
Travis Gaster, in his first year at Princeton, knew he wanted to follow in his daddy’s footsteps before he hit kindergarten.
Jack Gaster directed the Smithfield-Selma football program while a young Travis tormented players and managers of the team at practice, he says.
“Always wanting another ride, then another chance to drive that red tractor,” Travis recalls. “I learned to drive on that tractor, even though I burned out a lot of clutches doing it. I was the ultimate coach’s kid field rat. I aggravated more players in the Smithfield-Selma program in the mid-1980s than anybody.”
Travis Gaster didn’t think his coaching career would get started as quickly as it did. He accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy and played football there until an injury ended his career basically. There went the plan to become a fighter pilot and retire with full benefits from the Air Force in 20 years. The goal then: being able to coach high school football and never having to worry about money.
He ended up back in North Carolina at N.C. State, and although he couldn’t get a medical release to try to play again, he ended up catching the eye of then Wolfpack defensive standout coach Doc Holliday.
“God’s plan took hold then,” Gaster said. “I met the love of my life there (at State) and went right into coaching.”
Bubba Williams is one of three high school coaches in his family, in addition to dad, his brother Beau is the head coach at Jacksonville High School. Growing up in the Williams household being around a winning football program was a way of life. Now, Bubba Williams realizes the success was almost too normal.
“I feel like he made it look a whole lot easier than it is in some ways,” Williams said of his father, Chip. “I found that out to even be more of the case when I got to Eastern Wayne. You learn so much more when you’re a head coach about what it takes.”
Bubba Williams turned Eastern Wayne into a winner and decided directing the Pirate program in Johnston County was the place he wanted to be when the position came open last spring.
Every day, he thinks of what he learned from his dad. “The bottom line is he was successful because of the time he put into football program,” he said. “It’s no different than anybody else. You become a successful head football coach when you learn to communicate effectively with everybody who has some role in making a football program successful.”
Travis Gaster and Williams grew up familiar with another key concept of successful coaches and coaching families. It’s something that often drives coaches out of the profession: the idea of “dark-to-dark.”
“Understanding the commitment it takes from a family stand point is something I really took from my experience with my dad,” Gaster said. “It’s often a leave home when it’s dark, get home after it’s dark job. That can be a real challenge for a family, especially one with small children.”
Balancing duties with the kids at home and the football-playing kids you try your best to treat just like your own is one that all coaches struggle to balance. It’s no different for Williams or Gaster than any other football coach.
“You have to love kids to do this,” Gaster said. “And if you love the kids you’re working with, chances are you’re going to do the right things to lead them to success.”
Week 4: Old rivals, ‘new’ rivals to meet this week
Friday night’s football slate around the area features a pair of longtime rivalry games and three games that could become rivalries in the very near future.
The longstanding rivalry games feature Smithfield-Selma visiting Clayton and Princeton heading to North Johnston. Those rivalries will continue to flourish for years to come because of their history and the proximity of the schools.
The three potential new-era rivalries on this week’s schedule? Fuquay-Varina-Cleveland, West Johnston-Middle Creek and East Wake-Corinth Holders.
East Wake and Corinth Holders are separated by about 10 miles and are more likely than anybody else in this trio to end up in the same conference in the near future. Although not as physically close, there could come a day where Fuquay-Varina is a natural rival with both West Johnston (which it has played in the past in football) and Cleveland and the same could be said for Middle Creek.
Thursday’s game: Chapel Hill at Southeast Raleigh, 7:30
Friday’s games: Smithfield-Selma at Clayton, 7; Leesville Road at Garner, 7; West Johnston at Middle Creek, 7; Spring Creek at Wake Christian, 7; Princeton at North Johnston, 7:30; Fuquay-Varina at Cleveland, 7:30; East Wake at Corinth Holders, 7:30; Southern Nash at South Johnston, 7:30