Jim Williams is the new boys golf coach at Center Grove High School. But he’s hardly new to Center Grove.
And he is definitely not new to coaching.
The longtime head coach of Center Grove’s girls varsity golf team, Williams has coached various sports in the area, at various levels, for 35 years. Recently hired as Center Grove’s boys head golf coach, he is now in charge of both varsity programs, a challenge he warmly embraces.
Because touching lives, working with athletes and teaching them to win a certain way are what keep him in the coaching game.
“One thing about golf that I love is that it’s based off of your integrity and character,” Williams said after a recent practice at Hickory Stick Golf Club. “Calling a penalty on yourself, there’s nowhere that you go in sports where you have to do that to yourself. You always have umpires or referees or whatever.
“Here, it’s just you and God looking on you to see if you are doing the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do.
“Kids may be under pressure to fudge a little bit, but hopefully what we can teach is doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”
This is a pretty standard sentiment from Williams when he discusses coaching, with results on the field, course or court only being as valuable as they fit with greater life lessons that serve to improve the young people competing.
“The kids are why I do this,” he said. “It’s too much fun to be around them for me to quit. They are the ones who help keep you young. Just being around them, you get different stories about different things and a lot of lighthearted things all the time.”
In Williams’ case, these stories go back a long way.
He has coached basketball from junior high (he moonlights as the Center Grove Central eighth-grade boys coach) all the way to college basketball when he an assistant to former IUPUI men’s coach Bob Lovell during the 1980s.
He’s been an assistant at Center Grove High School and also pioneered the boys program at Greenwood Christian Academy, shepherding the team through its entry into the IHSAA.
Williams even scouted a game for his Greenwood Christian successor, Cougars coach Jaime Satre, during their run-up to this year’s Class A regional final.
“Basketball is probably my first love,” Williams said. “I like the versatility that is required. You are asked to do different things all the time, and you have to function on both sides of the ball to be good.
“Our eighth-grade team won the county this season with a 19-1 record. I said I would coach them until Jackson (his son) went through; now two years later I’m still there.”
Williams, who also has coached youth baseball, has guided the girls golf team at Center Grove to multiple IHSAA state finals appearances, along with a regional title. He especially revels in the occasions when someone lower in the lineup makes a critical difference in team performance.
“I can remember kids that were not the best players on the team who had to step up and contribute,” he said. “I remember several cases at regionals where we had girls definitely pull more than their share of the weight at the end of things, where we ended up winning, and it was our No. 4 or No. 5 player who came through and really kept working at it to make a difference for the team.
“I take a lot of satisfaction in that.”
Deb McClurg, a former volleyball head coach and assistant golf coach at Center Grove, has taught and coached with Williams at Center Grove for many years. She said he has the ideal temperament and values to coach.
“He’s a very patient guy. Coaching, especially golf, takes a lot of patience,” said McClurg, who led the Trojans’ volleyball team to a state championship in 2000. “I know he’ll do a great job with the guys, as well as he has done with the girls. He knows the game very well, and he prides himself on the players following etiquette.
“He really respects the game, and I’m sure that will rub off on the kids.”
Williams, a Center Grove graduate who teaches English at the school, respects the game so much that he directs players to receive the bulk of their instruction from PGA teaching pros.
“One of the things I do both with the boys team and the girls team is mandate that each kid has to have a relationship with a teaching pro from the area,” he said. “What (assistant coach) Brent (Harrell) and I will do over the course of the season is, yes we can help them on some minor things, but when it comes down to it for the overall game and from that standpoint, we leave it up to the teaching pros in the area.
“We’ll work with them on some minor adjustments, but for the most part we leave it up to them and the pro. We’re trying to sharpen their skills, mainly.”
Of course when Williams talks about sharpening skills, he definitely means on and off the playing field.