Jerry Wasserman has logged a whole lot of miles pacing up and down the sidelines of high school football games over the last 50 or so years, the last eight at London High School.
Those strolls, and father time, however, have finally caught up with the longtime coach as he announced earlier this week to his team that he’s resigned his coaching position.
The coach’s mind is still sharp as ever, but he admits that it’s his body that’s preventing him from going any further.
“The biggest problem is my back,” Wasserman said. “I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my back. I’ve limped around the last couple years and I just decided it was time.
“If you can’t do what you need to do then it’s time to call it quits.”
The coach, who will turn 73 this year, said walking isn’t necessarily the issue. But the hours of being on his feet in the weight room or walking around during two-a-day practices were just going to be too much on his body.
“The way (my back) has been bothering me, I didn’t know if I could handle it,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years. That’s a long time.”
London director of athletics Jimmy Wolverton knew the coach had been bothered by a bad back, so he wasn’t surprised by the announcement. But he admitted it will be tough to see him go.
“It’s nothing that had been in the works,” Wolverton said. “We had some conversations before and he just let me know that he had made the decision to step down.
“He’s very knowledgeable and very easy to work with. There are a lot of work that comes with being the head football coach, any coach for that matter, but I never had to worry with him here. I’m going to personally miss him and definitely appreciate everything he did here.”
Wasserman said he will miss the relationships that come with being a coach. The daily interaction with players, assistant coaches, administrators, parents and fans.
“I’m sure I’m going to miss those relationships,” he said. “As a coach, you play somewhat of a surrogate role of a parent to the kids. You worry about how they’re doing in class and how things are at home. When you get a kid that catches fire and starts to excel in the classroom and on the field — it’s very rewarding. I will miss that.”
Wasserman, who also had coaching stints at Lakota, Mechanicsburg and Northeastern, thinks the London football program is in a better place than it was just a few years ago. The number of players in the upper classes at the school are still quite low, but he likes what’s happening at the lower levels.
“We’ve gone down in the junior high and gotten kids excited about the program,” he said. “Numbers there are up and I think they’ll be back up again at the high school. We’ve got junior high kids in the weight room and that wasn’t the case years ago, I think some of the little things we’ve done will start to pay off.
“I think we’ll start to see the fruits of our work in the next few years.”
As for finding a new coach, Wolverton knows that his back is against the wall. The ideal situation would be to have a new coach in place prior to the end of the school year, which would allow for time to set up summer conditioning programs and camps and such.
“This is an important position and we’re looking for the best candidate who will educate our kids and make better men out of them in four years,” Wolverton said. “We’re hoping to have a name to take to the May (school) board meeting.”
The London school board’s May meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 13.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.