From the Bench: After 31 Years and Roughly 1,500 Kids, Coach Vernon Louk Steps Away on all Fronts

By Jeff Toquinto on February 11, 2018 from Sports Blog via

You’d have to go back a few years. Actually, you’d have to go back a few decades to find the roots of coaching involving Bridgeport’s Vernon Louk.
What you’d find if able to rewind was a young man who looked to have a full-time teaching career ahead of him who was going to spend time coaching at Buckhannon-Upshur. The time, as it turns out, was 1986 when Louk’s journey began.
It turned out to be a long career in coaching and a short career in teaching. Louk eventually saw his full-time work gig involve the United State Postal Service and substituting in the school system. The coaching, however, continued and for those that knew Vernon Louk it may have seemed like something that would never end.
After 31 years, the coaching journey has officially ended. Vernon Louk, who has been a fixture in coaching at the former Bridgeport Junior High and the current Bridgeport Middle School, recently stepped down as an assistant football coach to Robbie Buffington.
Think about that? Thirty-one years? That’s almost one-third of a century coaching youth, almost exclusively here in Bridgeport.
For those that think that’s not a hard trick to turn, you probably have never coached or probably don’t have to deal with a few adults and kids that always make coaching – even when the majority of them are a pleasure to deal with – an adventure at times. Yet Louk did it for 30-plus years.
So why leave?
“It was time. It was time for someone else to step in that’s younger. Now, I’m going to do whatever I want. We bought a camp ... and I like to golf and fish,” said Louk. “Plus, I’m sure my wife will have plenty of things for me to do.
“I’m also a bit tired of the practices,” Louk continued. “That, and I’m a little old school so some of the changes we deal with today I’m not as good with so it was just time.”
His wife, Karen, has sacrificed plenty, Louk said. Now, he hopes to spend more time with her and the family.
For the last eight years, Vernon Louk was Buffington’s assistant. However, to think of Louk as only the Braves football assistant or the guy who also helped out on Fridays with the Bridgeport High School football team would be missing the complete volume of work Louk amassed in three sports.
It’s not only impressive in its duration, but in its success.
In his time as an assistant – and also a few years as a head coach for the Braves softball team – there was a lot of winning. He was part of four championships with the BMS football team. Three times he was on the staff when BMS won the boys’ basketball championship. But his greatest success came when coaching softball where he was part of an astounding 21 titles. Add in to that at least one “unofficial” title during his time coaching football back at BJHS when they didn’t have championship games and the totals come out to nearly one title for every year he coached or assisted.
It all started when Louk was the head freshman basketball coach at Buckhannon-Upshur High School back in ‘86. In 1988, then Bridgeport Junior High Principal Bill Fahey asked Louk to serve as an assistant football coach. That started him on a coaching path that would eventually include his long run as an assistant softball coach that turned into a head softball coach for seven years and back to an assistant under current coach Billy Estok.
Louk eventually began working for the USPS during that time and in 1993 he gave up football. He remained, however, with the same softball gig he started in 1988 until 2015 (serving as head coach from 2004 to 2011).
“When I started with football, Mr. Fahey told me I was the assistant for softball too. I stuck around there for a while,” said Louk with a laugh.
Eventually, Louk began coaching in other sports. He joined long-time and now retired BMS basketball Coach Bill Shaver as an assistant in 2010 and Buffington in 2011. Last year, he gave up basketball.
“My number one goal was to have fun and if I was having fun and the kids were having fun then I decided I would stick with it,” said Louk. “I’m pretty sure the kids are still having fun, but I noticed it wasn’t quite as much for me. Maybe it’s my age or maybe the culture now with sports or a combination of both, but I knew it was time to step away from everything.”
BMS Principal Dave Mazza was happy for Louk to leave on his own terms. But, he was also sad to see him go because of what he brought to each program he was involved with at the school.
“The kids love him. He is a father figure to all of these kids and a great positive influence and mentor. He’s made such a positive impact here,” said Mazza. “He coached for the right reasons … The thing that always stood out was that you could tell he wanted to make a difference by  making sure those kids were ready to compete when they got to high school. It was important to him to see them succeed after they left here. There’s not enough ways to say thank you for something like that.”
Bridgeport Middle School did do its best to do just that. At the end of January, on 8th Grade Night during a boys and girls basketball doubleheader, Louk was recognized and presented with a plaque for his years of service.
“I was excited as heck about it,” said Louk. “I told them that I’m kind of a shy guy and some may not realize that because I’m outgoing and emotional a lot of time when coaching, so I was actually nervous in front of that crowd. Still, I really enjoyed being there with those kids and a lot of former kids I coached. It was a special night.”
It was one that reminded him of just how long he had been around. Louk looked around to see more than one second generation student he had coached.
“I guess I realized it when I coached Robbie (Buffington’s) kid and I coached Robbie … to see those faces lets you know you’ve been around,” he said.
He plans to still be around. He said he’ll help out if any coaches at the middle school need him. He also said he hopes to help the Bridgeport High School football staff this year if they need him, but more in a behind-the-scenes role as opposed to working the sidelines as he has done for the last several years.
“I still enjoy kids and wanted those kids to love their teammates and I wanted to be as fair as I could be. I’m sure that didn’t work out very well all the time,” said Louk.
It worked out more often than not. Along the time line, Louk said he estimates he coached more than 1,500 kids.
“That’s a lot, but I probably managed to tick half of them off somewhere along the line. It didn’t matter because I still loved them all,” said Louk. “My goal was to have fun because if you do that it makes winning easier. That was our second goal; to win. I think we did okay there, too.”
Mazza wouldn’t dispute that. He said, winning aside, he brought the best intangibles to coaching one could want.
“He was enthusiastic and when I first met him as the athletic director at Lumberport Middle School in 2001 you could see that when he was coaching. He was the support staff, the cheerleader, for his kids along with teaching them how to compete and that was because he wanted them to succeed,” said Mazza. “I saw it then and I saw it when I got here and until the end. He’s a great leader for these kids and I’m glad to be able to call him a friend. The great thing is that after these kids get done here, they still call him coach. The best thing is that most of them end up calling him a friend.”
Enjoy your time off Vern. After 31 years, you’ve more than earned it.

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