Well Finished: For 15 varsity seasons, Rob Davis guided his football plan with enthusiasm and intensity, generally completely ready for the subsequent activity or to give a participant a fist bump. (Picture by David Biggy)
Erik Smithman knows all about the devotion Rob Davis experienced to the Barnegat Higher School soccer software.
“I’m his neighbor, so often I’d see him go away at 5:30 a.m., almost certainly to go to the fieldhouse to observe film or something like that,” said Smithman, a working again and defensive again for the Bengals’ initial varsity squad in 2006. “I’d get in at 7 p.m. and he continue to hadn’t occur dwelling still, possibly because he was nonetheless in the fieldhouse undertaking something in planning for the up coming recreation. Or to place alongside one another a player’s emphasize video for a college or university mentor.
“He poured his heart and soul into the plan.”
Now a Stafford Township police officer, Smithman was section of Barnegat’s initially graduating class in 2008 and was aspect of the crew that introduced Bengals soccer, a handful of many years immediately after Davis developed the program from scratch at the time the significant school opened its doorways in 2004 to Smithman’s freshman class.
“I respected him so a great deal as a coach, I did not mind having him as a neighbor,” he mentioned with a laugh. “Rob was additional than a mentor. He was additional like a guardian to me. He actually cares about his gamers. He’s often checking in with us, even 12 decades later on. He cares about wherever they go immediately after graduation, what they do in lifetime, what happens to them.”
For the previous 18 a long time – right after he coached the Russell O. Brackman Middle College application and then started the high school’s system – much more than 1,000 gamers have long gone by means of Davis’ process.
“And I assure he knows the names of each individual single child who has played in his application,” Smithman reported. “He can give you the full list of them. I know it.”
Requested if he could, Davis nodded.
“Yeah, no issue,” mentioned Davis, who stepped down as the Bengals’ only head mentor to date adhering to Barnegat’s 14-7 victory in excess of St. John Vianney on Nov. 19. “I constantly acknowledged just about every kid in apply, irrespective of whether it was a pat on the back, a nod, a fist bump, some thing to make him fully grasp I knew he was there. I did not need to choose attendance due to the fact I knew each individual kid there. It was significant to them that I understood who they were and I was there for them.
“The application was built like a household.”
It’s no surprise his previous players keep in contact with him, irrespective of how lots of yrs had passed since they left his software – it speaks volumes to the dedication and devotion Davis place forth to assistance them grow to be responsible adult men.
“He was committed to our life and cared about each individual player’s own lifetime as significantly as their engage in on the industry,” mentioned Griffin Jackstadt, now with the University of Pennsylvania football staff immediately after graduating past year. “He cherished the child underneath the jersey, not the amount on the back again of it. He was a man of class, and it rubbed off on to each of us and helped condition us into adult males.”
Self-described as “passionate and rigorous,” Davis did not simply place guys on the industry to make improvements to as soccer players. Alternatively, he sought for them to find out lifetime classes, to face adversity and defeat it, to always attempt to be their most effective.
“It’s Ok to fail, but you have to deal with adversity and that’s what is heading to make you a better person,” Davis stated. “I always claimed, ‘We want to be at ease with getting uncomfortable.’ And this 12 months was no unique, primarily with the coronavirus. But if we’re on the 1-lawn line and we have to go 99 yards to score a landing, we know we can get there. We’ve been there before, so it is just yet another travel we have to make.
“And in life, this is the way it is. If these guys have concerns, I want them to be cozy currently being not comfortable, because items are going to take place. You fix this issue, and this one’s heading to come at you. You fix this one particular, and that one’s coming. That is what we explain to our young ones, that issues are going to appear but you nonetheless have to execute for your spouse and children. It’s about proudly owning up and remaining a responsible grownup. It’s about producing the community far better.”
It is that exact mantra – staying responsible and remaining ready to “perform for your family” – that has forced Davis off the football area. Two many years ago, Davis was hospitalized with an 85-p.c blockage in just one of his heart’s valves, requiring the installation of a stent.
“At that level, I was not absolutely sure if I was coming again,” he said. “The health care provider informed me then that I was performed, and I reported, ‘Doc, you have to give me an additional shot.’ He gave me a bunch of issues I had to do right before he’d let me arrive back, and I did what I required to do to get back on the area.”
However, Davis knew his time with the Barnegat football application was minimal, so he well prepared his coaching employees for his eventual departure, grooming them for a potential with out him.
“I knew this working day was coming two several years ago, but for this system to continue to be intact with my fingerprints on it, I experienced to put together people today,” he reported. “That’s when I began giving my assistants much more assignments to take on, things that I would do. I was not likely to depart till they had been completely ready to go on with out me, so which is what I have been performing.”
Davis was going to depart following previous time, but the Bengals misplaced their ultimate video game of the year to Manasquan and he place off his departure for a different year – “that was not how I was ending it,” he said.
With 3 weeks left to this time, Davis finished up back at the medical center right after his blood strain rose to an unbearable level minutes in advance of the video game from, of all teams, Manasquan. His physician said his time was up, that he experienced to quit coaching. His spouse, Sue, concurred.
“I advised him I was carried out soon after the period, but I had to get to the finish line, even if I had to coach from the raise,” Davis said. “He didn’t want me to do it, but we only experienced two video games still left and I promised him I would not yell or get fired up about things. My spouse was not going to let me on the area, both. But I was there, coaching.”
Davis oversaw the team’s operation from up higher instead than at subject degree, as his Bengals scored victories around Lakewood and St. John Vianney all through the team’s remaining two months. The 36- shutout versus the Piners on Nov. 13 solidified Davis’ selection to close his stint now.
“The Lakewood activity gave me closure,” Davis claimed. “Then we defeat Vianney and there was no doubt about it. I was good to go. From where I started out all this until eventually now, we’re on improved floor. We have established traditions and a heritage of regularity and accomplishment. The application is fantastic, appropriate in the area it need to be for the subsequent mentor to take over. The fellas we have in this article now are completely ready to go forward with the application.”
Just after the gain more than SJV, Davis ended up on the industry, only to talk to the workforce one last time and share time with current and earlier players, Smithman and Jackstadt amongst them, parents and followers – an emotional time for the duration of which lots of pics ended up taken.
“I needed to make certain I received to the complete line of this year and I did,” he said. “I desired to conclude the reign the right way, and the youngsters performed their hearts out. They performed a terrific recreation to close the season, and which is the way I wanted to try to remember the method, as a winner.”
Just one accomplishment of which Davis is most very pleased is the actuality the Bengals “never went -10 or 1-9” – Barnegat was “never a doormat software.” The Bengals were a .500 or far better crew via most of his extend as head coach, capturing 4 division titles along the way and earning a place in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III championship in 2013, when the Bengals finished 10-2.
“I’m proud of the continuity and consistency we have experienced around the a long time,” he mentioned. “I’m happy of the young children who often wore their Barnegat shades with pride. I’m happy that we have been in the condition playoffs seven times. As a coach, you want your software to be respectable. And we have been respectable.
“I’m contented with it. I wouldn’t have accomplished just about anything distinctive. When I seem at the entire body of my function, with the young ones who came out to participate in for us, what I thought this plan really should have been is just what it is. Now I have to action down and enable the system go on devoid of me.”
But do not rely on Davis being gone without end.
“I’m not retiring,” he reported, emphasizing the very last term of that declaration. “I’m likely to choose treatment of myself for a though, but I’m sure I want to come to coaching at some point. I never know where by or when that will be, but I still want to be a head coach again. When you seem at my resume, there is likely to be a crack and then it’s heading to continue.”