During an impromptu meeting in late April, Chris Yoo suddenly saw his future, and those of his football teammates at Rampart High School, become frighteningly uncertain.
That was the result of the sudden resignation of fifth-year head coach Rob Royer, who accepted a position at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School.
“It was shocking,” said Yoo, an incoming senior who rushed for 1,317 yards and 18 touchdowns last season as the Rams reached the postseason for the fourth time in five years under Royer. “We all had questions about the future of the program. We knew if we lose the staff, our future would be more in question.”
Fortunately for Yoo and the Rams, the program found Royer’s successor closeby in Troy Ward, who had served as defensive coordinator for the previous five seasons.
“When a new coach comes in, you never know, especially as a senior,” Yoo said. “Now, it’s comforting to know our program is still together.”
Hiring from within a program can be beneficial to maintain continuity, but the situation requires a perfect fit.
“We want to do what’s best for the kids in our program,” said Rampart athletic director and assistant principal Andy Parks. “We did our due diligence and met with people and interviewed people from across the country. We thought Troy was the right guy, not just because he’s in house, but because of the big picture, the way he relates with kids and the way he leads a program. I think you’re silly not to see what you have on staff. Troy has worked as hard as anyone.”
Rampart’s decision to promote from within its athletic department mirrored several of its cohorts in maintaining consistency moving forward. Earlier, Liberty selected longtime assistant boys’ basketball coach Roy Vieux to succeed Ivan Chambers, and Kent McIlhany, a 19-year employee in the Lancers’ physical education department, was chosen to follow Brian Straub as hockey coach.
Air Academy went with junior varsity coach Bob Wingett to become the program’s new softball coach, as did The Classical Academy, which hired former junior varsity coach Hannah Lindblom to head the program’s varsity squad for the upcoming season.
She’s the first TCA graduate (2014) to achieve the status of head coach for the Titans.
Vieux, who assisted Ivan Chambers at Liberty for the past seven seasons and also led programs at St. Mary’s and Falcon, had been groomed into the Lancers’ top position
“He (Ivan) had been talking about going into administration and asked if I had been looking about going to other places,” said Vieux, the father of three Liberty graduates (Josh, 2008; Jake, 2012; and Sam, 2013). “He let me call the offensive plays and put me in positions to co-coach with him.”
Chambers earlier this spring accepted a position to become an assistant principal at Liberty.
So, when fall sports practices start on Monday, players such as Yoo won’t have much of a transition, other than a head coach who’s not so new.
“We’ve continued building on what Coach Royer did,” Yoo said. “It was a relief to see a familiar face. Everything, from our summer workouts, felt exactly like it did before. Now we don’t have to question everything as we might have before.”