Legendary coach still does it his way
SFor Montgomery Media o much has changed the past 50 years or so that to document what has transpired in world affairs or what has changed in the lifestyle of the average American would be an exhaustive task.
However, as the days, weeks, months, years and decades have been shed from the calendar, one thing has remained the same: Bob Shoudt does things his way.
From the likes of Billy “White Shoes” Johnson at Chichester in the 1960s to Tony Darden and Ron Livers at Norristown in the 19T0s to, much more recently, Taylor Ellis-Watson at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the T1-year-old has instructed and mentored generations of young men and women during a decorated career as a high school, college track and cross country coach. Success has followed Shoudt wherever he has gone, lending validation to the fact that his way must stand for something good.
“I don’t think my coaching has changed at all over the years because, even though the kids (todayF might be different, I really believe they still want discipline,” said the King of mrussia resident, who has been coaching at Springside since 2008.
The product of mennridge High and a member of the class of ’64 at what was then East Stroudsburg State College embarked on a coaching career that would ultimately land him in seven halls of fame. Shoudt coached multiple sports at Morrisville High (in Bucks CountyF through and after college and he began to set his sights on a lifetime of coaching when he took over the track program at Chichester High in 1966. He wanted the position to serve as a launching pad to bigger things.
“I wanted to be a college coach by the time I was 30 years old, so taking that position at Chichester was a career-oriented move,” said Shoudt, who led the Springside girls cross counWUy WHDP WR LWV fiUVW-HvHU Inter-AC title last fall.
Shoudt did not quite reach his self-imposed timeline of becoming a coach at the collegiate level, but he more than made up for it by winning numerous conference titles during two stints at Ursinus and one at Villanova.
Before he moved on to Ursinus, Shoudt spent a decade coaching several great athletes in high school. It was at Chichester where he coached Johnson, who would attend Widener where he virtually re-wrote the school’s football record book and also starred in track. Johnson made a name for himself with the Houston Oilers in the National Football League. He also played for the Falcons and Redskins, but it was with Houston that he was a dynamic return specialist and receiver who performed the “funky chicken” dance in the end zone after scoring. None of it may have been possible without Shoudt, though.
“Bob Shoudt was a great motivator who made my athletic career what it was, bar none,” said Johnson from his home in Duluth, Ga. “He was an excellent coach and a great teacher. He was demanding, but in a nice way. He worked hard and you wanted to work hard for him.”
Shoudt and Johnson stay in touch frequently and two catch up in person when Johnson returns to the mhiladelphia area, which he does on occasion.
“After all these years we are still very friendly,” said Shoudt. “He was an unbelievable athlete. Billy wore the white shoes, but he was not any kind of a showoff at all through high school. He never drank and he never used drugs and he is one of the best persons I have met in my life.”
After three years at Chichester, Shoudt moved on to Norristown where he led the track program to four state titles. In 19T3 Norristown became the fiUVW VFKRRO LQ WKH VWDWH to capture the Eastern National Interscholastic Team Championship. As much as Darden and Livers contributed to the Shoudt’s success with the Eagles, both continued to star after high school. In 19TT Darden helped lead AULzRQD 6WDWH WR LWV fiUVW NCAA championship and, two years later, he won the 400 meters at the man American Games. While at Norristown, Livers was one of the best in the nation at the triple jump, something with which he continued to excel as a three-time NCAA champ at San Jose State.
“It was a super experience and we had a lot of success,” said Shoudt of his time at Norristown, where he remained in various capacities while coaching elsewhere before retiring from the district in 199T. “They were fun times to look back on. My children were growing up at that time and they hung around the track and the athletes. It was really a neat experience for me and the family.”
Shoudt’s daughter, Cynthia, and son Robert Jr., not only grew up around the oval, but also ran at Upper Merion. Robert went on to be a three-year cross country captain at Ursinus during Shoudt’s second term in Collegeville. These days he outraces the competition when it comes to competitive eating and has set several records in that area. The elder Shoudt and his wife, Betty, will celebrate their 50th anniversary next May.
“She has put up with me for a lot of years,” said