Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015 9:00 am by Matt Welch firstname.lastname@example.org
For Rick Robertson, win No. 1 as a head baseball coach came in the mid-1980s at Winnsboro.
Like any coach undertaking that long-awaited first head coaching gig, Robertson was simply trying to win a single baseball game in a city where football was king.
“You barely had enough to have a team, let alone much else,” Robertson said.
“It was a good bunch of kids who played hard and gave everything they had.
“… It probably wasn’t the most important thing (in Winnsboro), except for those kids who were out there and me.”
Expectations have changed since those days in Winnsboro. A single win blossomed into aspirations for a district title and in recent years, hopes of contending for a state championship.
Although in Robertson’s case, the scenery has changed a few times and his coaching philosophy has evolved, the consistency embroiled in those 30 years of head coaching has been a constant. On Tuesday, the Wildcats celebrated that consistency following a 3-0 victory over McKinney Boyd that doubled as the 500th of Robertson’s career.
“Let’s just say I’ve answered a lot of Twitter and text messages,” Robertson said. “That’s been really cool, though. A lot of players I hadn’t talked to in a while texted me and that was really nice, because they were all a big part of it.”
That appreciation spans back to his days as a one-man staff presiding over a Winnsboro program that was only in its third year of existence, clad with players who prided themselves on work ethic. Without anything close to the facilities and tradition he enjoys these days at Plano, Robertson appreciates where he is because of where he’s been.
As a coach, Winnsboro became Canton, which then became Sulphur Springs, which laid groundwork for a 25-plus-year tenure in the Metroplex split between South Garland (18 years) and Plano, where he’s currently in his eighth season as head coach.
At South Garland, Robertson led the Colonels to 10 playoff appearances, including five in a seven-year span before departing for Plano, where he was tasked with resurrecting a program mired in a five-year playoff drought. The results have included not only a return to the postseason – a feat Plano has accomplished five times under Robertson – but a string of four consecutive district championships and last year, a spot in the Region II Finals that doubled as the program’s deepest playoff run since 1999.
“The main thing is to have the players,” Robertson said. “That’s the obvious answer, but it also helps to have your philosophy of what kind of team you want to have and what you build it around. You want to instill that as much as you can in your younger group.”
That merely scratches the surface for program-building ingredients, as Robertson also credits a selfless attitude from his upperclassmen in helping shepherd the team’s underclassmen, plus strong assistant coaches – such as current Plano assistant Rick Cremer and former South Garland assistants J.E. Lancaster and Stephen Arias – and support from athletic directors to help mold said coaching staffs.
Although the proponents required for a coach to amass 500 career wins in any sport are extensive, the accolade itself is something that was hardly on Robertson’s radar – not with a Plano squad embroiled in a contentious race for District 6-6A’s final playoff spot.
Wins Nos. 499 and 500 went a long way in potentially realizing that goal, as Plano prefaced Tuesday’s win over Boyd with a 6-1 victory over Plano West that moved the Wildcats into fourth place and capped regular-season sweeps over both the Wolves and the Broncos – Plano’s two most immediate threats for that fourth playoff seed.
Looking back, Robertson still remembers the opponents for wins 300 (Rowlett) and 400 (Lewisville), not for the symbolic meaning for his career but for the difficulty in attaining those victories. Tuesday’s win over Boyd followed a similar script.
“As far as big games … I’ll remember those because those were tough wins,” Robertson said. “I’m just proud of the guys and for them to accomplish that goal after what we’ve been through would be tremendous. I’m still proud of them for the way they’ve fought through it and kept pushing, and that shows character.”
However, as dialed in as Plano is on its ultimate goal for the regular season, there was still time to celebrate Tuesday’s milestone win. With his wife and mother in attendance, Robertson was awarded a framed jersey with “500” embroidered on the back and received plenty of commendation from former players and coaches alike via social media or text messages afterwards.
As momentous as occasions like Tuesday’s can be in a coach’s career, Robertson sees no reason why he couldn’t be on the celebratory end of another hundred wins down the road. Although he admits being at the point in his career where opposing coaches and umpires have jokingly asked how much longer he plans to continue coaching, Robertson happily sees no end in sight.
“I’m having fun. Plano Senior High is a great place to be, I teach over here and teach with a bunch of great people,” Robertson said. “There are times when it gets frustrating during a game of course, but I don’t see any slow down. I’m enjoying what I’m doing, we’ve got some great players coming and there’s just so much fun in putting the pieces of this puzzle together each year.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll go, but I’m enjoying myself right now, though.”
For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter @.