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Conversation With Coach – Bob Wolfrum, Wyomissing

Written by: on Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

 

How did a Philadelphia guy like Bob Wolfrum end up at Wyomissing?  How did he build a winning tradition there?  What are some highlights from his illustrious career?  The answers to these questions and other inquiries lie within the exclusive interview I had with this great coach.

Wolfrum’s 2019 Spartans are 8-0 and are among the favorites to play in Hershey in December in the AAA classification.  Coach Wolfrum has compiled a 309-83-1 career record at Wyomissing.  He has been head coach at Wyomissing for 33 years, after a 13-year stint as an assistant there and 2 years at Muhlenberg.  This is his 46th year at Wyomissing.  He is in the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Berks County Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the West Chester University Football Hall of Fame.

Mr. Wolfrum graduated from William Tennett H.S. in 1968 and West Chester State College, as it was known back then, in 1972.  He was a running back in high school and college.  In fact, he is still 10th on the all-time career rushing touchdown list at West Chester.  “I came from a football background.  My dad was a coach in Philadelphia.  I have a Phys Ed degree, but I went to West Chester to be a coach.  That’s all I ever wanted to do,” Wolfrum said.

PM: “Tell me a little about your family?”

Wolfrum: “I married a girl from West Chester that I met my sophomore year.  Her name is Sheri.  I tell everybody she chased me around for a couple years,” he chuckled.  They have two children, a boy and a girl.  Their children’s names are Britta and Andy.  “Britta lives in New York City and is in the coffee business.  Andy is at West Point where he is the head coach of the Army Prep team.  About 70% of the team you see on Saturdays came through the prep school.  Andy had also been coaching at Louisville with Charlie Strong before Strong went to the University of Texas.  Before that, Andy graduated from West Point and subsequently did two tours in Iraq.”

PM: “How did you end up at Wyomissing?”

Wolfrum: “My first job was at Muhlenberg.  They were looking for a Phys Ed teacher/backfield coach.  George Baldwin, the offensive line coach at West Chester, knowing my wife was from the Reading area steered that job toward me. I spent two years there.  An assistant on our staff named Jack Paris got the head job at Wyomissing and took me with him.  Back in those days you could bring your own assistants with you and they’d give you a job.  So that’s how I ended up at Wyomissing in the fall of ’74 and I’ve been there ever since.”

PM: “How do you measure success?”

Wolfrum: “Obviously, people look at the record.  However, if you’re a coach long enough, factually it’s whether they play up to their potential, cause some teams are not going to be state championship teams.”

“I just try to judge it by ‘did they work, did they give it their best’?  If they do, then it’s a pleasure to coach them.  While you always want the record to be a real good one, you can be satisfied with whatever it is knowing that they put everything into it and gave it their best.”

PM: “What’s the most satisfaction or thrill you’ve got out of coaching?”

Wolfrum: “Oh boy, that’s a tough one.  There is so many positives that you can look at, I mean obviously winning a state championship was special, but I think back to when Jack Paris and I first came to Wyomissing which had been down for a long time.  When we had that first winning season, that was one of the highlights.  And just, without naming them, just seeing some of the kids and how successful they’ve been.  They come back and thank you for helping them.”

“You get into coaching cause you want to win football games and you love the sport, but anybody who’s a coach is in the people business.  The special part of coaching is you got a bunch of kids who are from all different walks of life, but they all have the same goal and are willing to work toward that same goal.  That’s pretty special.”

“And along the same lines, your coaching staff is the same thing.  We’ve had a special group of people.  I’ve been head coach for 33 years and we’ve had 3 or 4 guys that have been here the whole time.  We have 3 or 4 guys on medicare on my staff earning social security,” he laughed.  “I feel so blessed.  We know what each other wants to do.  We’re always trying to get better.  But we have each other’s back, and we have a great time on and off the field.”

PM: “Is it tougher to coach today than when you first started?”

Wolfrum: “Yeah, in so many ways.  When I first started coaching most of the defensive coaches had it pretty easy back then cause most everybody was running I-backs and if you saw 5 passes a game, it was a lot.  Now you’re defending everything you see on Saturday and Sunday.  The actual X’s and O’s on the field coaching is ten times tougher and if you don’t stay up on all that stuff, you’re going to have a lot of trouble.  It’s tougher to keep the kids’ attention now days too.”

Coach noted one area where his responsibility has gotten easier, “I remember it was probably the late 80s before we got a trainer.  I did all the taping and everything, all those years when I was an assistant coach and when I started as a head coach.”

PM: “How were you able to build a winning tradition at Wyomissing?”

Wolfrum: “First of all, at Wyomissing I was an assistant for 13 years.  Jack Paris was the head coach during the formative years of our success.  We still do some of the things we did when we first got there.  Building a tradition is really important and, by tradition, I don’t mean just winning which is what you want to do.  We have a tradition of being in shape.  We always thought, if you’re in great shape you’re not going to get beat, cause you run out of gas.”

Coach’s second point about building a winning tradition is finding an offense to run when your opponent is bigger and stronger than you.  He concluded that point by saying, “That meant to us you’re either an option team or a wing-T team.”  The Spartans run the wing-T and run it very proficiently.  “In our system you don’t block anybody head on,” he stated.

“There’s a lot of little things that I couldn’t think of half of them right now.  We thought we had to be in better shape than everybody else and that we believe in our X’s and O’s.”

PM: “How involved are you in the youth football program in your area?”

Wolfrum: “From our junior high and way down to our flag football team have evolved over the years that they run our stuff.  They use the same language that we use and they’ve really bought into being a feeder program to us.  We have, I hate to call them clinics, but in the winter, we have one night a week where it’s open to all our little league coaches and we’ll pick a topic.  Say, tonight we’re going to talk about linemen drills or whatever the topic may be.  That has really helped us.  I am blessed to have that situation.”

PM: “What is or are the most important concepts you try to teach your players?”

Wolfrum: “Well, we teach or try to teach them some values.  Responsibility and how you deal with people.  Being able to get along with other people.  If you’re not teaching that, there’s no reason to be running athletic programs in schools.  The best things kids get out of sports is learning to deal with other people and how to put the team above their own desires.  And sometimes that’s tough for kids.”

“You watch the kid who’s a senior who will take time to help the sophomores or the ninth graders even though it’s a sophomore or ninth grader who’s very good who may push him at his position.  That’s one of the things that’s really neat about coaching to see kids doing that.”

PM: “If there was one coach past or present you could sit down with and pick his brain, who would it be?”

Wolfrum: “Bud Grant.  I was about ten years old when the Vikings came into existence.  I still remember they played at that old Metropolitan Stadium.  It got cold up there.  He would not let people wear gloves and they didn’t have heaters on the sidelines.  He was tough besides being a good football coach.  I always admired that.  I’d love to hear him speak.”

PM: “What motivates you to keep coaching?”

Wolfrum: “I can’t imagine not doing it.  I really love the mental part of the game, the game planning.  I love going up against someone else and trying to put our X’s and O’s up against theirs.  See what adjustments they’re making and what adjustments we have to make.  I love game day.  Game days are special.”

PM: “Is coaching high school football a 365 day a year job now days?”

Wolfrum: “Yeah, you have to put a whole lot more time into it.  I think most of us choose to do that.  I retired from teaching about 15 years ago.  Coaching is not a full-time job except during the season, but in the off season I’m doing something for football most days.”

PM: “Now a few ‘fun’ questions.  What do you do with your free time?”

Wolfrum: “Walk my dog.  We have a really nice park system and I like to be out.  I used to go running with Coach Baldwin and pick his brain while we were running.”

PM: “What is your favorite meal?”

Wolfrum: “Can’t have it too often, but I really like surf and turf.”

PM: “Favorite dessert?”

Wolfrum: “Ice cream.”

PM: “What’s your favorite movie of all time?”

Wolfrum: “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”  (A 1942 film that starred James Cagney as early 20th century entertainment legend, George M. Cohan.  Cagney won an Oscar for his performance.)

PM: “If you could go back in time, who would you like to meet?”

Wolfrum: “I think it might be Patton.”

PM: “What would you want your legacy to be?”

Wolfrum: “Just that we really cared about doing things right, the right way.  We cared about winning, but we cared about doing it the right way.”

PM: “What is one thing people might not know about you.?”

Wolfrum: “Oh boy.  I have no idea what to say about that.”  (Pause for a few seconds.  I mentioned what a couple of the other coaches had answered).  “Well, I’m a fan of oldies music.  In fact, there’s going to be a concert with the Duprees and Charlie Thomas’ Drifters near here (West Reading) on Saturday, October 26.”

We talked a couple more minutes, mainly about 50s and 60s music, as that is my favorite genre of music also.  We also touched upon the state title game in 2012 with the difference in the 17-14 Spartan victory being a 52-yard FG by Jonah Bowman.

Coach Wolfrum appears to be a tough, no nonsense type of guy, yet his fervor for the game shines through when you talk to him.  He pondered every question and answered from the heart.  He was thoughtful and genuine in every aspect.  I got a sense that he is a well-respected man.  Wyomissing is blessed to have a man of that stature be their head football coach.

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