DEREK ERGLE: Remembering a career in education and coaching
“I’ve lived my entire life in Franklin County. I graduated from Russellville High School, and I began teaching at Belgreen High School in 2004. I spent a few years at Belgreen, and then I transferred to Tharptown High School when they built the new high school; I was a teacher and coach here at Belgreen, and I transferred to Tharptown to be a teacher and a coach.
“I spent roughly nine years at Tharptown, and then I went to Russellville High School. From Russellville I accepted an assistant principal position back in Belgreen.
“At Tharptwon, they were in the process of starting a high school and starting new athletic programs, so I decided to go over to Tharptown and help them with this process. It was a learning process for everybody. You were bringing in secondary teachers and new administration … and I remember when we played the first high school games for baseball and basketball and football.
“Just being there when that was all started from the ground up is something I will definitely remember. It was a whole community effort – to come out and really support us starting the new programs. You have to buy all-new equipment, you have to have facilities, and you have to learn all the new AHSAA rules, what they require from you. Your teachers have to know what they can teach; you’re hiring a whole new staff, and the staff is trying to get used to the community and new administration.
“We all learned from each other. To be able to experience that was definitely something special. You realized, we’ve got to come together, we’ve got to decide the necessary steps we need to go through to do the proper things we need to be doing. There are so many guidelines the state requires to be recognized as a high school. The Franklin County school board did an excellent job with the transition.
“At the time it was just a junior high, and the thoughts of this being a very large school – now look at it. Look how much it’s grown. Look at all the buildings that have been built. It’s a 2A school now.
“Of course, that is where I came in contact with Coach Smith. He was toward the end of his career, and he had asked me to help be one of his assistant football coaches. To listen to the stories of all the different schools he coached at in the county and all the connections he had made was just amazing.
“I had known about Coach Smith for a long time. He was kind of a legend in this county and had coached different places. When he was hired, I had no intention of helping coach football. I was head baseball coach at the time. He comes over to the baseball field one day and said, I really want you to help coach football with me, and Coach Smith is one of those guys who it’s hard to say no to. He’s friendly and enjoyable to be around, and he talked me into it – and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had working with a group of guys, especially him. We were very close. We were just a few seconds away, very close, from carrying Tharptown to the playoffs for the first time.
“We had a retirement ceremony for him his last year at Tharptown, and he and I still have a great relationship. I still call him occasionally and ask him questions. He’s still one I lean on for answers.
“I tell people all the time, there’s just no place like Franklin County. I personally feel the Franklin County school system and the Russellville city school system are some of the best school systems around. The one primary reason we do this job is to educate children – to make sure we’re teaching them the things they need to prepare for in life and get them ready for what happens after high school. It’s really been a blessing to do what I’ve done.”