THOMASVILLE - Doug Robertson has joined Thomasville High School (THS) as the bulldog’s new, varsity head football coach. Robertson resides in Reidsville with his wife Erin, daughter Taylor, and son Tate, who will be making the forty-mile trip with dad in the fall to attend Thomasville City Schools.
Robertson learned what hard work was all about growing up on a farm. Due to his responsibilities on the farm, he was not able to play youth sports. He attended Reidsville High School (RHS) and played football at RHS under Mark Barnes, for one year, and Jimmy Teague, for his final three years. He also was a member of the track team.
Robertson attended Guilford College on a football scholarship and played four years under Mike Ketchum. After graduating in 1999, he became a student assistant at Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi earning his master’s degree and certification to teach Physical Education. That year Delta State won a national championship.
In the fall of 2000, Robertson returned to RHS after being hired by Coach Teague as defensive coordinator. Teague mentored Robertson for eight seasons. During those years Robertson learned the importance of treating players as if they were his own sons and creating a family atmosphere within the program.
“Coach Teague made our coaches’ families feel welcome and treated players as if they were his own,” said Robertson. “That sometimes included showing tough love and not communicating necessarily what the players wanted to hear. Everything is not always okay. People say kids are different today. I believe it comes back to having high expectations, which I do. We tend to get what we expect from our student-athletes.”
Robertson was the head coach at RHS for three years and an assistant for five years. He was a part of five state championships, four as an assistant and one as a head coach. He then decided it was time to start his own program with its own identity and left for Person High School (PHS). Robertson quickly realized PHS was not a good fit for him. Nevertheless, he still felt it was his calling to rebuild football programs. He left PHS to accept the head coaching position at Eastern Guilford High School (EGHS) to help rebuild their football program. He spent five years at EGHS, where he was able to hire a great staff and build a state championship caliber program. EGHS made it to the state 3A finals in 2016 and the re-gional finals in 2017.
“I believe I helped to take Eastern Football to a place where it could be successful each year,” said Robertson. “It was time to look for a new challenge, so the timing for coming to Thomasville High School was right.”
Robertson officially moved into his role as head football head coach at THS on April 1st. He is hoping to repeat his success at THS with turning the football program around.
When asked how familiar he is with the bulldog’s successful football history, Robertson shared that in 1991 RHS and THS began a series of annual matchups. Robertson played in those games and then coached in the series when he returned to RHS. He remembers the great athletes THS had and how well they were coached.
“I knew both as a player and as a coach, that when we came to Cushwa Stadium, we were in for a dog fight,” said Robertson. “Unfortunately, the series ended and I kind of lost touch with Thomasville. But I always checked out the Friday night scores to see how Thomasville did. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the program and tradition that Thomasville has.”
Robertson feels that the biggest challenges in rebuilding a program is getting the players excited about participating in football again and buying into his philosophy.
“As a coach, you need to do things to instill pride not just in the players, but in the school and in the community,” said Robertson. “Things like people wearing bulldog football stuff and making Thomasville football matter to people again. I use foot-ball as a vessel to teach life skills to my players. Life lessons are part of playing football. As a role model, I want to set a good example for my players and let them know there is life beyond Thomasville football and that they can use football as an avenue to future success in life. The toughest part of turning any program around is getting the players to believe that there is stuff outside the school building that they need to experience.”
Robertson deems that some things will need to be addressed off the field for success to follow on the field. His message will be to emphasize doing the right thing, all the time.
“Doing the little things right will take care of the big things,” said Robertson. “We need to take care of tardiness to class and absences. Kids al-ways want to say they are eligible. But a quote they will always hear from me is instead of just being eligible, make yourself marketable. If you make yourself marketable, it is going to give you options after high school. If you have a 2.0, then yes you may be eligible; but a 2.5 is going to open a lot more opportunities after high school.”
“As coaches we must keep preaching that the little things add up and make a big difference,” continued Robertson. “Like dressing for Friday night games. We want to wear the same cleats, socks, etc. We are a team. We wear a uniform and the word uniform means the same, so we are going to dress as a team. Everyone doesn’t have a lot of money, so it takes the socioeconomics out of the picture.”
Robertson believes every player must be held accountable.
“We are the Bulldogs,” said Robertson. “But we are going to spell Dogs as DAWGS for using as an acronym for my five pillars. D is for discipline. A is for accountability. W is for work ethic. G is for grit, and S is for sacrifice. We are going to ask our players to make a sacrifice by giving up things af-ter school to be at practice - like not going home to play video games, or being with your girlfriend, or not going to the mall or to the movies. We will preach that practice is important to be a good player and to take ownership of the importance of working hard to make yourself a better person. This expectation will apply to all our players no matter the skill level.”
“In some cases, I’m going to be harder on the best players,” added Robertson. “They aren’t going to get a free pass because they think they have arrived. I think being consistent with our communication, and the kids seeing our staff cares about them, will make a big difference. Each player’s role will be important and we will uphold our mantra that no individual is bigger than the team. We will allow our players to exhibit some indi-vidual freedom within the rules and guidelines of our program.”
Robertson’s program goals for seeing success in his first year as a Bulldog head coach will not be measured in wins and losses.
“First and foremost, I want to put a product on the field that the players, coaches, and the com-munity can be proud of,” said Robertson. “Everyone wants to win. I want the process of what it takes to win to be showing in our behavior on the sideline, in our behavior on and off the field, and in our effort on the field. I want to be a team that when someone comes to a game to watch, they can be proud of what they are seeing. I don’t think you ever need to be defined by wins and losses. We need to be defined by the process. There will be some low points, but we will get there. I want to be the team that people will say plays harder than anyone else. We want our kids to be good citizens, no matter what your socioeconomic background is, the color of your skin, or where you come from. Football is a great way to bring all types of people together for a common goal. I just want people to be proud of what we do here.”
“Last year at Eastern Guilford, we lost to Page High School which was nothing to be ashamed of,” added Robertson. “The next week we lost to Smith which was a .500 team. We were the better team but didn’t prove it that night. That loss changed our season. It was a low point, as that was when we realized we weren’t very good and had a lot of work to do. We went back to the fundamentals, worked hard and ran off nine wins in a row after a two-game losing streak. The season could have gone either way. You have to persevere and dig down deep when things aren’t going your way. That’s what I will expect of our kids here at Thomasville.”
There will be four coaches carrying over from the previous staff for the 2018 football season: Dee Dow (defensive backs), Reggie Leak (defensive line), Kevin Bowers (offensive coach) and Ed Coleman (offensive line). New coaches will be Carlos Fields (outside linebackers), an offensive coordinator who will be in place by the time this story publishes, and another coach to be named later.
Upon reflecting over his coaching career, Robertson says that he has been blessed to be around good coaches and good players. He does not take for granted the fact that he has been involved in seven championship games, winning five of them. He understands getting to a championship game is a very hard thing to do. He fully intends to in-vest his experiences and lessons learned over the years into the Thomasville High School program. He understands and looks forward to being a part of the Bulldog Nation football heritage and recap-turing the community pride on Friday nights.
The Bulldog’s first varsity game action will be Friday, August 10th at 4:00 pm in a pre-season jamboree. The team will open the regular season on Friday, August 17th at 7:30 pm at home against the Albemarle Bulldogs.