When Rocky Gaudin finally finds time to reflect on his 40-year coaching career, there are a number of things — better yet, people — he’ll think of first.
Not his wins and losses.
Not just the number of former players who went on to the next level.
And not his numerous accolades and honors.
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Instead, the Hancock High School football coach will fondly remember the number of caring dads and husbands he helped mold while they were just high school players trying to find their places in the world.
“It was never about that (the game results). We’ve had very successful teams and I’ve been places where we had a great deal of talent,” he told the Sun Herald. “But I would hope that is my legacy; that what we did was worth a whole lot more than just a win. I hope some good dads and husbands came out it.
“It sounds hokey, but that’s how I really feel. That’s how I’ve always felt.”
After 40 years in coaching, including 27 as a head coach, Gaudin announced earlier this month he’s retiring.
“I just felt like it was time,” he said. “I didn’t want to hang around where people think, ‘he’s just hanging around because he doesn’t have anything else to do.’
“I’m not sure what the future’s going to hold for me, but I just felt like it was time for someone else to take over and try to take Hancock even further.”
After spending 13 years as an assistant at Hancock North Central, Gaudin landed his first head coaching job at nearby Bay High in 1990. He took the reins of Hancock in 1994 and later coached at Mercy Cross (2004-06), St. Patrick (2007-09) and Resurrection (2010-11) before returning to the Hawks in 2012. Gaudin retires with a 138-140 career record.
“I debated whether it was the right thing to do — to come back or not,” Gaudin said. “It felt right and was time to come home. At all those places, I commuted a long ways because I never left the Kiln. I felt like it was time to come home and be close to my family. Coming back to Hancock was a special thing.”
At many of his jobs, Gaudin welcomed reclamation projects with open arms. In fact, he welcomed the challenges that came with building up programs.
“I’ve been fortunate where everywhere I’ve been, the place has been better when I left than when I got there,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’ve based my career on — trying to leave a place better than when I got there.”
Reflecting on his career, Gaudin hopes it was clear what truly meant the most to him.
“I wish people wouldn’t get so worked up because your team doesn’t win that night or didn’t run a certain play,” he said. “Everyone is trying and working hard. There’s a lot of good people in this profession and the kids for the most park work their tails off. We’re supposed to be trying to make good husbands and good fathers. That’s what I’ve always believed. People put too much into wins and losses and scholarships. To some people, that’s all that it’s about.
“At Hancock and everywhere I’ve been, it’s always been so much more than that. My kids will tell you that — about being a part of something, becoming a family and pulling together to enjoy the good times and work through the tough times.”
Gaudin decided midway through the 2016 season he was going to retire, but, selflessly, he refrained from telling his players until after Thanksgiving. While his family and close friends knew what was next, his final moments on Brett Favre Field after a 56-39 loss to George County were difficult.
“That was pretty emotional for me, walking off the field,” Gaudin said of the team’s final game. “I hadn’t told my kids, but I think they knew something was going on. I didn’t want it to be about me or have anything interfere with the season. I just wanted us to go through it like any other season.”
As for what’s next, Gaudin doesn’t have any big hobbies. He expects he’ll volunteer somewhere because, well, football’s in his blood. Most importantly, however, he has a couple important rain checks that need to be cashed in.
“That’s the primary thing — some long overdue family time,” he said.