Retired South Junior High School physical education teacher and longtime basketball, baseball and track coach Ron Garvin, 62, sits on a porch talking sports and retirement at a west Lawrence home. His short but trim and fit-looking frame is dressed in paint-splattered shorts and a T-shirt.
He’s taking a break from his new job, painting houses for Classic Painting, along with several other retired teachers.
Life’s a little more relaxed now, Garvin said, and he wears retirement well.
“It’s a great life,” said Garvin, who retired a few years ago. He does a little painting during the week and occasionally finds himself substitute teaching. The best part is helping coach his grandchildren’s baseball and softball teams.
That’s how he gets his “coaching fix,” he said, after 28 years coaching junior high football and basketball, 20 years as an assistant baseball coach for Lawrence High, and another dozen years coaching track.
“Whatever’s in season,” said Garvin of his coaching career.
He says he’s been lucky in life; finding a career he loved, marrying his high school sweetheart, and being blessed with good health. Now it’s time to take things a little easier.
But friend Tom Boxberger, whose daughter Elyse plays softball with Garvin’s granddaughter, Kenzie, said there’s nothing relaxed about Garvin’s approach to his assistant coaching job for the girls team. Garvin pitches in to help his son Jay, who’s the head coach, for the off-season team.
Boxberger says he and Garvin will be hanging out at some softball tournament, and Garvin will pull a little book out of his back pocket.
It’s a scouting report for other teams and players he’s compiled through the years.
“He’ll know what some of these girls did at some tournament three years ago in Lee’s Summit,” Boxberger said. The somewhat obsessive attention to detail isn’t restricted to the players. Boxberger says Garvin always knows the umpires’ names, and he’s even caught Garvin writing their names on the inside of his hand before games.
Lawrence High School baseball coach Brad Stoll, who coached with Garvin for six years, said that dedication to detail made him a great addition to his coaching staff.
“Fundamentals. Fundamentals. Fundamentals,” Stoll said. “Even if you fail at something, you do the little things right.”
Garvin had a way of being firm and tough, but was never the yelling and screaming type, Stoll said.
“I never heard him raise his voice,” Stoll said. But, “he could easily turn a baseball practice into a cross country meet.”
It was well-known by the players that mistakes in practice would be rewarded with a wide variety of running punishments.
“It had to be done a certain way,” Garvin said. “You couldn’t cut corners.”
Garvin — an Atchison native — spent two years at Highland Community College before coming to the University of Kansas. Despite a love of sports and playing basketball and baseball in high school, Garvin’s original plan was to become a civil engineer. He dropped out of KU and spent a year working for an engineering firm in Topeka, but wasn’t sold on it as a career path.
“It was time to have a change of course,” he said.
Garvin sat down with his now wife, Jane, and they “figured it all out.”
He liked sports and teaching others, and figured being a teacher and coach wouldn’t be a bad life.
Garvin received his bachelor’s and master’s from KU in recreational administration and started at South Junior High for the first of his 33 years — 10 spent as a math teacher, 23 as a physical education teacher. The couple raised two children here in Lawrence — and now have three grandchildren — and Jane worked at a local preschool for many years.
In all his years coaching, Garvin said it’s the ‘thank-you’ letters and cards he gets from former players that mean the most.
He realizes he was tough on players, but hopes in the end, they realize “it was well worth it.”
“Pressure. Pressure. Pressure,” said Garvin of his practices. “But we still had fun.”
Garvin’s definition of fun?
“When you have success. Wow.”