Over the past 14 years, Rob Kittrell has been the football coach at his alma mater of Sparks High and the Athletic Director for the last six years. It was one of Kittrell’s original coaches during his playing days for the Railroaders that motivated him to take the path he did.
“Rob Hastings was probably the biggest reason I wanted to come back,” Kittrell said. “He was one of the big mentors in my life. I think with a lot of us it goes back to who we had as coaches when we were in school and what those coaches gave to us. We want to give that back. It’s just been a tradition here of coaches that care about kids and I guess that tradition carries on. That’s what brought me back, how he and the rest of my coaches and teachers gave me so much growing up that I wanted to be a part of that.”
Another reason Kittrell wanted to return to his old stomping grounds was in order to return it to past glory.
“As a football player there we weren’t too successful. We had a .500 year and a 2-7 year. I want to try as a coach to give them something that the school hasn’t done, and that’s win a state championship and a region championship,” Kittrell said. “It’s just that pride that all our coaches instilled in us and it carries beyond that pride to try and get a championship for this community.”
While Kittrell’s ultimate goal is to bring a championship to the Maroon and Gold, the task has proven difficult to achieve.
“It’s been such a different 14 years. When we first opened we had the Spanish Springs kids and we had just beaten Wooster and I firmly believe we were getting ready to turn the corner a little bit. Then the rezoning took place and that just decimated us,” Kittrell said. “Myself as a coach, I think I’ve become a better coach because we haven’t necessarily had bodies or the talent that we did. When I look back on it, those first three or four years we were really spoiled with what we had there with athletes and numbers wise with 120 kids in the program. As an AD, I try to support what the coaches are doing. I don’t want to coach or critique but be there for support win, lose or draw and keep things positive because it can be difficult at times.”
Although the struggles are overwhelming at times, it is the true cause behind why Kittrell coaches that keeps him going.
“It can get real difficult at times and you wonder if you’re just banging your head against a wall or maybe someone else can come in and do a better job. There’s doubts there,” Kittrell said. “The thing that keeps you going is when those ex-players come back and talk to you or you see them out. You see the differences you’ve made in their lives as a coach or teacher. When you’re down in the dumps someone will pop into your life and give you a thank you and you remember that’s why you’re in it, not so much for wins and losses but to help kids out and make them better citizens and help them toward a better life.”
Regardless of the hard times, the 1987 SHS graduate still loves being a Railroader and leaving the same impact on his players and students that was once left on him.
“I love it. I love it at Sparks. Of course the demographics and the neighborhood has changed, but it’s a great place to be at,” Kittrell said. “The kids there need the adult role model in their lives because a lot of parents are busy working or maybe not in their lives. We can step in and kind of help be that surrogate parent and that’s very rewarding. That’s my favorite part of my job, just helping the kids out by pointing them in the right direction and helping them understand the importance of an education and moving on.”