Vaught's Views: Horsemen made Sphire a better coach

August 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Winning the National Indoor Football League championship was an amazing learning experience for coach Bob Sphire.

After spending 2003 as the Lexington Horsemen's defensive coordinator, Sphire took over as head coach this year and his team won the NIFL title Saturday with an impressive 59-38 win at Sioux Falls (S.D.).

Not bad considering this is not even Sphire's primary job. No, his main job is still being head football coach at Lexington Catholic. Yet Sphire knows if his team loses to five-time defending state champion Boyle County in its season opener Aug. 21 -- and the Rebels figure to be a solid favorite -- there will be more than one person questioning his commitment to Catholic.

"When I took the Horsemen job in November, I said then there would be people if things did not go well for Lexington Catholic that would be looking for excuses and assume I let my guard down," Sphire said. "But I don't give a hoot about that. I know the time I put in. Right now we are not a very good team, especially up front. We'll get better. That's why I won't spend a lot of time worrying about things, or people, I can't control."


If he was insecure, he certainly wouldn't have added Boyle for Catholic's Bluegrass Bowl. Not only should the game attract a capacity crowd because the matchup of Class AAA title contenders, but WKYT-TV will also televise the game.

After playing Boyle, Catholic also has difficult games with St. Xavier and Scott County, two of the state's top Class AAAA teams.

But rather than make excuses, Sphire says the time he spent with the Horsemen from March until last week made him a better coach.

"It was a lot more fun than hectic," Sphire said. "We got on cruise control about game eight. We were locked in and focused. It was really a miraculous type of thing. Most weeks we cut down from three practices to two the last half of the season.

"I almost hate to admit it, but the players made it easier for me. I also might be getting a little wiser in my old age about delegating and letting other guys do their jobs."

Because he was dealing with older players, Sphire also learned to listen more intently to what someone like former Kentucky and Valdosta State quarterback Dusty Bonner or former UK receiver Dougie Allen had to say.

"I learn to listen to adjustments they were comfortable with," Sphire said.

He said his wife and two children, ages 8 and 12, were supportive and called his wife a "saint" for all she did as he was juggling both coaching jobs.

"I really debated about whether I wanted to do this, but my children wanted me to," he said.

"I wanted to see them do things and watch what they were doing during the summer. Obviously, there were some trade-offs, but I was able to do more things with my kids than I anticipated. Don't get me wrong. The Horsemen job was not easy, you learn to administrate, delegate and schedule ahead of time."

It made for a busy summer

Still, there were busy times. He had to leave a summer 7-on-7 passing camp at UK because the Horsemen had a game. He had several long bus rides.

Even for the NIFL title game he didn't fly with the team because he wanted to stay in Lexington a day longer to coach a Catholic preseason scrimmage.

"Coaching Lexington Catholic has always been my top priority," Sphire said. "There were very few moments when I had to step away. When I did my assistants took over because we are all on the same page."

Sphire said former Horsemen head coach Tony Franklin told him a few weeks ago that what he learned this summer was more knowledge than he could have acquired by working at top college camps across the country for years.

Sphire soon realized Franklin was right.

"People can buy this or not, but I am a better Lexington Catholic coach because I coached the Horsemen," Sphire said. "Lexington Catholic benefited from this experience in a lot of ways, too.

'Having not won a championship before and being involved in all that. Having a lot of close games. Just the speed of the NIFL games. Coaching older athletes and learning from them. I am a better coach now than I was six months ago."

Still, Sphire knows that won't silence his critics if he loses the opening game to Boyle.

"Let's be realistic. If we lose, and Boyle has one of the state's best teams, some people are going to talk. But no matter what, I'll be able to handle it because I know I've not let my responsibilities at Catholic slide," Sphire said.

Central Kentucky News Articles