In the first few months of retirement, things haven’t always gone so successfully for Yogi Kinder, the former football coach at Mingo Central.
“Well, I’ve caught about three fish,” he said Tuesday, “and I’ve fished about 15 times. So I can tell you right now, I’m not very good. I’m probably a better football coach than I am a fisherman.”
However, things should be picking up for Kinder this week because he’s back on the practice field and will again be stalking the sideline Saturday during the WCHS 8 Fox 11 North-South All-Star Classic, which is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at University of Charleston Stadium.
Kinder, who led Mingo Central to its first state championship last December with a victory over Fairmont Senior in the Class AA finals, serves as the head coach for the South squad, while Wheeling Park’s Chris Daugherty leads the North. Kinder stepped down as Miners coach following the season, and has been replaced by offensive coordinator Joey Fields.
But for the rest of this week at least, Kinder can set aside the laid-back life of a retiree to one more time coach the sport he loves. He served as football coach at Matewan for 25 seasons (1986-2010), then spent the last six at consolidated Mingo Central.
“It has been different,” Kinder said Tuesday during North-South media day at West Virginia State University. “I wake up every day thinking about, ‘What am I gonna do?’ I can’t fish, evidently. It’s definitely going to be a big change because I’ve been playing football and coaching football since I’ve been 9 years old. That’s a lot of time to put in when you’re alive. A lot of people don’t even think about that.
“I was about 12 years old and wanted to be a football coach, and I was very fortunate to be in the right place with some good guys, some good players most of the time, a bunch of good coaches and I really enjoyed myself, I can tell you that much. And would I do it again? Yeah, buddy, if I was about 25, I’d coach still, sure would.”
Kinder is grateful for the opportunity to return to the North-South game in a coaching capacity because of the friendships it spawns. He served as a defensive coach for the South in 1996 when DuPont’s Dick Whitman headed up the coaching staff. That came three years after Kinder had led Matewan to the Class A title in 1993.
“This is a first-class operation,” Kinder said of the North-South game. “I’ve been an assistant coach in this game, been assistant director, and let me tell you how much better it is now than it was in . And I had a lot of fun with those guys; those guys are real good football coaches, and the kids were great.
“I still right now today, I’m involved with some of these players that I coached [in 1996]. We don’t meet every year and do this, but I still see them and they still holler at me. I got one guy who calls me every Christmas and says, ‘Coach, you remember me?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I remember you from last Christmas.’ But just the relationships these guys are going to have. You all ain’t never gonna forget this, never.”
Kinder hinted that the players involved in this year’s game will form bonds with teammates and opposing players during the practice week that will last for years.
“I know they [will], later on in life, you’re really gonna appreciate it. Guys, it’s fun to you now, but when you get old like us, that’s when it’s really gonna matter.
“There’s just no comparison now than it was in . The food’s better, the dorm’s better, and they do all this stuff for you guys — we do something different every, every night, and it’s so organized, daylight to dark difference. That’s what I like about it, because I’m an organized guy. But these guys — coach [Bob] Mullett, coach [Mark] Montgomery, Charlie [Maynard] of the coaches association, these guys spend a lot of time doing this, a lot of time, and they spend a lot of money doing this, and we really appreciate it.”
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Another recent championship coach will be walking the North sideline Saturday as Park’s Daugherty led his program to the 2015 Class AAA title.
Daugherty, who has Park assistants Keith Phillips and Tim Ickes on his North-South staff, said the amount of entries he adds to his team’s offensive playbook will depend on how quickly the players pick up the system.
“You definitely can’t install everything,” Daugherty said, “but I do think you kind of evolve as the week goes. So if they’re picking it up, we add a little bit more and if they’re picking that up, we add a little bit more. They’re going to make a decision for us whether we stop and say, ‘OK, that’s it, we’re going to play with that,’ or we keep going a little bit.
“So far, so good, and I think that has a lot to do with the quarterbacks and what they can do and what they can’t do mentally. Something that’s so everyday to you, it’s Chinese to them, and so it does get difficult.”