Coaches Corner

John Smith, head coach Bexley High School

During the first week of the regular season, Bexley High School football coach John Smith spent a lot of time in front of his TV.

As he was studying film for his team's game against St. Charles on Aug. 29, he was watching his sister, Katie, who earned her third Olympics gold medal with the U.S.A. women's basketball team as the U.S. beat Australia in the final 92-65 on Aug. 23.

Smith, who was there to see his sister capture the gold in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, said there was no temptation to postpone watching game film during the gold medal final.

"I wasn't able to see any of her games live," said John, a 1990 graduate of Logan. "Most of them have been show in the early morning hours. I usually watch the games on tape delay or TiVo them. For me that's been great. I agonize a lot less when I watch knowing how they've done.

"My brother (Tom) and I are quite supportive of Katie and it's really difficult to watch her play live. She tells me she runs into a lot of Big Ten officials who still remember us (questioning calls)."
 
Q: This is your second year at Bexley. How much of a difference have you noticed?
A: It's been night and day. I've had a full year here under my belt and the kids have really bought into it what we are trying to do. It's made a big difference being in town and the amount of time I've been able to put in.
 
Q: Last year around this time, you were still trying to sell your house in Youngstown and find a house in Columbus. What was the hardest part of that?
A: Yes, we sold our old house and bought a new one in the middle of last season. Fortunately I married a very good woman (Brooke) and she helped keep the hassles to a minimum. It was much tougher on her than it was on me.
 
Q: Tell me a little bit about your family.
A: Brooke and I were married in 2001 and we have twin girls Sydnie and Ellie, who are 4, and Alex, who is 2.
 
Q: I know you had to pass on the trip to China, but what was it like to go Australia and watch your sister bring home the gold?
A: It was fantastic. I was fortunate enough to go with my parents and my family for 10 days and see the Games. It was quite an experience.
 
Q: Did you grow up in a competitive family?
A: To put it bluntly, yes. Outside of Katie, my father (John) played football at Ohio University and graduated in 1968. Tom was a linebacker at OU and graduated in 1998. He married Carol Ann Schudlick, who was former Big Ten player of the year (at Minnesota) and a former Columbus Quest teammate of Katie's. My wife played volleyball for the University of Akron.
 
Q: Tell me a little bit about your playing career.
A: I played at Mount Union from 1990-93 (he was a center on the 1993 team that won the school's first Division III national championship with a 34-24 decision over Rowen). I was an assistant coach there when they won their third title (61-12 over Lycoming in 1997).
 
Q: What was the experience like?
A:  It was a great experience. Larry Kehres is a coach that I try to emulate. To this day, I still get butterflies in my stomach and my head goes down every time he walks into a room. I expect him to get on me like he did when I was a player. It's still difficult to get past that player-coach relationship.
 
Q: What things did you learn from him?
A: You can never be too prepared. We would watch the same game film 20 or 30 times a week. When I was an assistant, he'd say, 'OK, I want you to watch for this thing.' When we would get done with that, he'd say, 'OK, we're going to back,' and he'd pick out something else. As a player you knew that if you were anywhere within seven points of a team going into the fourth quarter, he was going to find a way to win.
 
Q: What made you go into coaching?
A: When I was at Mount Union, I was thinking about going into medical school. It wasn't until I worked at Otterbein for two years that I fell in love with coaching. I think it was just the right choice and the right fit for me. I felt like I was doing something I was supposed to do.
 
Q: Bexley has never been in the playoffs. How much is that driving you?
A: Winning your league and making the playoffs is the ultimate goal for any coach. I don't know if it is putting pressure on me as much as it is the kids. They feel like they have a real opportunity this year.

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