A tribute to Jack Groce IV: Coach got best out of teams with repetition, respect
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
It was a catch phrase of Jack Groce's while he was a coach at Appalachian High School.
When the Blue Devils thought they were through running sprints, they'd hear it again.
"One more time."
When they thought they were finished with a drill, it was like a parrot talking to them.
"One more time."
Groce wasn't being mean to his players. There was a purpose to "One more time."
"I always felt that there is one thing that the opposing team was not going to do, and that was that we were going to be in better shape at Appalachian High School or at Watauga High School," Groce said. "Nobody was going to out physical us. We were going to be better informed on what we were supposed to be doing than our opponent."
Groce wasn't a drill sergeant. He didn't need to yell at his players like he was Vince Lombardi.
His style was more like that of Bill Walsh. If Walsh was West Coast cool, Groce was, "High Country cool."
"Coach Groce was not a yeller or a screamer," said Tom Wright, who played for Groce and is the current Watauga High athletics director. "He was very composed and calculating, yet very personable. He made you want to play hard for him. He talked to you like you were a young man and not a little boy."
His plan for his team was simple. Be smart. Be tough. Be poised. Win the football game.
"He was definitely not a screamer," said Jim Cottrell, who was the center on the 1962 state championship team that went 11-0. "He was very soft spoken. He never got mad. He just got even. If you didn't do what he told you, he would run you."
After listening to several of his former players, you get the idea that Groce could take any struggling program, shake things up, and produce a winner.
I wish I had played for him.
Groce was a coach who a lot of young men loved to play for. Everybody I spoke with talked about a gentleman coach who didn't have to be the loudest on the field, but always got results.
It may speak of the players themselves. Some coaches who are laid back get walked on by their players and discipline becomes a problem.
That wasn't the case with Groce. He commanded respect and got it from his players.
It's why he was so successful on and off the field. It's why he has that respect from Watauga County to this day.