40 years in, coach still go­ing strong

Rome News-Tribune - - NEWS - By Michelle Wil­son Cor­re­spon­dent

Af­ter decades of coach­ing foot­ball and teach­ing weights at schools in Ten­nessee and Ge­or­gia, no one could blame Dean Ra­tledge if he de­cided to take a fi­nal walk off the field, but Ra­tledge be­lieves he’s got at least a few good coach­ing years left in him.

“I’m start­ing year num­ber 40,” Ra­tledge said.

He will be an as­sis­tant foot­ball coach at Dar­ling­ton Up­per School and a wrestling coach at Dar­ling­ton Mid­dle School. His son, Tate Ra­tledge, will play foot­ball for the Tigers at the Up­per School.

Ra­tledge got his start 40 years ago coach­ing in Mur­ray County and then moved to coach­ing in Ten­nessee. He coached foot­ball with John Mul­li­nax in Cleve­land, Ten­nessee.

When Mul­li­nax re­tired and moved to Ge­or­gia to coach at Ar­muchee High School, he talked Ra­tledge into join­ing his staff and coach­ing un­der him again. Ra­tledge also coached track on and off as he was needed at Ar­muchee.

Ra­tledge, who is 63 years old, left Floyd County Schools at the end of last year.

He had been think­ing about re­tir­ing for a cou­ple of years.

Ra­tledge knew he wanted to go over to Dar­ling­ton and help coach in his spare time be­cause his son would be play­ing with the Tiger foot­ball team.

“I was over­due to re­tire any­way,” he said. Dean Ra­tledge (cen­ter) with his son Tate Ra­tledge and daugh­ter Em­ma­line Ra­tledge.

How­ever, his re­tire­ment wasn’t from one of the county high schools. It wasn’t from one of the mid­dle schools ei­ther. It wasn’t even from an ele­men­tary school. Ra­tledge spent his last year in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion as a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher at Pep­perell Pri­mary School.

His place­ment there, af­ter de­cid­ing he had not wanted to coach foot­ball his fi­nal year, came as a sur­prise, he said.

“I had not planned to go to the pri­mary school,” Ra­tledge said. “But it was a bless­ing in dis­guise.”

He said that Pep­perell Pri­mary Con­trib­uted photo

School Prin­ci­pal Car­men Jones was very sup­port­ive of him, as were all of his new col­leagues.

“Pep­perell Pri­mary is a great place,” Ra­tledge said. “The peo­ple make the place. They were ab­so­lutely won­der­ful.”

Ra­tledge, who tow­ers over most adults at 6-foot-3, had his work cut out for him be­ing sur­rounded by chil­dren in prekinder­garten through sec­ond grade. They didn’t seem the least bit in­tim­i­dated by him.

“I didn’t have a clue as to what to do,” Ra­tledge said, laugh­ing. “I’d never had to do any­thing like that be­fore. I’d spent my whole life in a weight room. You had to have some­thing planned ev­ery day.”

Be­sides their stature, the pri­mary school stu­dents were very dif­fer­ent from their high school coun­ter­parts in other very no­tice­able ways.

“High school kids don’t re­ally want to do any­thing,” Ra­tledge said. “Those (pri­mary) kids are so ex­cited — they wanted to do ev­ery­thing. … The stages of their devel­op­ment were all over the place. But those kids were al­ways so sup­port­ive of each other. That was a huge change from high school.”

Ra­tledge said the seeds of be­com­ing a coach came from sum­mers work­ing at a boys’ home when he was in his teens. He did ac­tiv­i­ties in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion with the boys and filled the role of big brother to many along the way.

“Like ev­ery other teenager in the world I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “I fell in love with the kids (at the boys’ home). That’s where the urge to coach was de­vel­oped.”

Teach­ers and coaches from Ra­tledge’s time in high school also im­pressed upon him the de­sire to coach.


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