Looking around a mostly empty Whiteland gymnasium, Jim Robling is reminded of some of the building’s unforgettable moments.
As a junior, he was the Warriors’ manager on the 1966-67 sectional championship basketball team that finished the season with a record of 20-4. More than a quarter century later, Robling witnessed the 1993 squad that also went on to qualify for a regional berth.
Name a moment and Robling, 67, the Warriors’ longtime scoreboard operator for girls and boys home basketball games, has likely seen it.
“Jim is special,” said classmate and former Whiteland athletics director Butch Zike, the Warriors’ boys coach from 1985-88. “He bleeds the blue and orange and has been around the program since the 1960s.
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“What does it mean to have him? What does peace of mind mean? Jim is always early, and he’s going to help with whatever you need. He’s just invaluable.”
Robling considers himself fortunate to have been courtside for generations of suspenseful finishes and headline-worthy individual performances.
At Edinburgh, former three-sport athlete Jackie Smith is in his 35th consecutive season operating the scoreboard for the Lancers’ home boys contests. He eventually began double duty, working the clock at Edinburgh home girls basketball games.
Both men are 1968 graduates of their respective part-time employers, though loyalty to their alma maters is only one reason they spend so much time inside gymnasiums they knew as kids.
“I love high school sports and I love working around the kids,” said Robling, who said he believes a game between Franklin and Cathedral during the 1960-61 season is the first time he set foot in the Whiteland gymnasium. “The administrators here have been great. I love doing it. It keeps me sharp.”
A manager for the Warriors his final three years of high school (1965-68), Robling at different times has kept the scorebook, run the game clock and even had his voice heard as the public address announcer.
Smith, who in 2012 retired after four terms as clerk-treasurer of the town of Edinburgh, stays busy in the winter operating the scoreboard for multiple Lancer basketball programs.
Aside from junior varsity and varsity boys games, he’s responsible for girls JV and varsity as well as boys and girls middle school games that the Lancers host.
“The hardest part is focusing on the game. If it’s a lopsided game it might be hard to focus,” said Smith, who also keeps the scorebook for the Edinburgh softball program every spring and used to work the first-down chains for home football games.
“I love high school sports. If there’s somewhere I can help, I’ll help.”
Robling’s full-time employment is being a driver for UPS. On Nov. 1, he submitted his retirement after 40 years on the job and then reneged four hours later. He’s still working the same shift — 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. — five days a week.
Pulling Robling from his customary location at the Whiteland press table someday might prove just as difficult.
“I’m very passionate about high school sports. I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I love it and have fun. I’ve always said I’m going to do it until I quit having fun.”
While the game is going on, Robling’s gaze is focused on the action in front of him, his right hand prepared to press the necessary numbers. During breaks in the action, he talks with those seated near him or with an acquaintance who has walked behind the press table.
The game-night routine of Smith is similar.
“It’s a blessing to have Jackie. He knows so much about this community and this school,” Edinburgh athletic director David Walden said. “It’s wonderful to know he’s there. I make sure I take care of him, because I don’t know what I’ll do without him.”
THE ROBLING FILE
Name: Jim Robling
Family: Wife, Lisa; sons, Justin, 32, and Chad, 27
High school: Whiteland (1968)
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts
Favorite athlete: Peyton Manning
THE SMITH FILE
Name: Jackie Smith
Family: Wife, Phyllis
High school: Edinburgh (1968)
College: Indiana State (1973)
Favorite team: Minnesota Twins
Favorite athlete: Harmon Killebrew