BLACKFOOT — It's an interview that I both loathed and loved to have. On one hand my favorite high school teacher and coach is riding into the sunset, leaving a void that the flooding Snake River could never fill.
On the other hand, a man among men is entering into the best times of his life. He is free as he says and now embarks upon yet another chapter in the life and times of Brian Barlow.
Here is a few words from the man. The myth. The legend.
Mark High - Coach you've spent 30 years in the same district both coaching and teaching. Did you ever consider leaving during that time?
Coach Barlow - Oh, no. I never wavered. It never crossed my mind. I've been in the same high school in just two different rooms. I can't believe that I had 40 kids and just 1 sink in the upstairs room and held zoology labs. Now I'm blessed with a nice enough facility for everybody but no, unwavering. Once I signed my name I said that I would and I will and I take dear allegiance, loyalty and devotion. They are pretty strong words in my book and when Mr. Hugie asked me too I said yes and when Mr. Woodfin said would you I said yes and I was unwavering.
MH - During your tenure here at Blackfoot High School how many different teams have you coached?
CB - That is one of the things that I am most proud of. I started the cross country program from scratch and that went for 16 years and then I started the track program from scratch. There were 4 kids out for that team in 1983 and I still remember them. Barry Butler, Rob Aubrey, Alicia Ramsey and Claudine Hawkes were the four kids out for track in 83. It's a funny story. We had the faculty against the basketball team fundraiser and I was with Dick Brulotte and Mr. Tripp and those guys. I'm a wrestler, I played a little basketball when I was little, so Dick Brulotte said Barlow just run so every time Mr. Dahle or Mr. Tripp would get a rebound I would run down the court, they would throw it to me and I would score a lay up. Well the next day I walked in and Mr. Hugie comes up to me and says Barlow, your the track coach. I said what do you mean I'm the track coach and he said to me, your fast and you can run so your the track coach. I was able to put over thirty kids on full ride scholarships from track so Blackfoot has blessed me in that. I coached for 6 or 7 years with football, track for 22 years, cross country for 16 years and then coach Taylor asked me to help with the freshman wrestling team and so that has been 23 years, the last 10 as the head coach.
MH - For many, you are best known for your wrestling successes. What did your career record wind up being for the time that you were the head coach?
CB - My goodness, I just finished my season summary last month and decided to add them all up and it ended up with a .900 winning percentage with 182 wins and 20 losses.
MH - You have a pair of team state championships in 2007 and 2008. How many individual state champions did you help climb the mountain top?
CB - The statistic that I like is that in the last ten years we have been in the top 10 100% of the time, the top five 90% of the time. The top two 80% of the time and the top team 20% of the time. We have two championships, six second place a fifth and a ninth. The last time that I counted we had 22 individual state champions in the last ten years.
MH - Aside from all the titles, wins and the like. What do you believe is your crowning achievement in the athletic arena?
CB - I think that it is my devotion to the betterment of my students, my athletes, my kids. I call them my kids and they aren't but that is what I always say because I love my kids.
MH - Any athlete who has ever laced them up for you all have a favorite Barlowism that they can recall. My own that you told me 25 years ago was, "it isn't the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog." What is your favorite Barlowism?
CB - I had some pretty cool grandparents and that's the way that my grandmother would tell stories. My grandpa would say something like now boys and there was always Bruce, Brian, Brad, Brent all lined up and they always hit home. I love famous quotes that just hit you so I don't have any favorite one. That one that works at that time though. That poignant, telescopic, point in time when that one tells the truth so succinctly, that is my favorite one. When a kid comes back and says you told me this. That is my favorite one.
MH - Coach Kent Taylor has come back to help with the Blackfoot wrestling program will you consider coming back to help the program?
CB - I've given it some thought. They don't need my shadow looking over their shoulder. I trust my assistant coaches explicitly, unwaveringly. They will do just fine. They know how we roll, who we are and what we stand for. Coach Cashmore has been with me for 20 years and he was groomed for this moment. Coach Henderson has an undying passion for the sport of wrestling and his kids so they don't need me around. The biggest compliment will be when they don't need me around, then I will have done my job. Coach Taylor was kind enough to come back but he also had to disappear for about four or five years and I knew why. You have to let the ghost disappear. I remember when coach Taylor would sneak in and poke his head into the wrestling room and the kids would ask who's that and I would have to tell the legend of Coach Taylor and after four years when no one had been coached by Coach Taylor they would ask who's the old guy and I would tell them the legend of the hall of fame Coach Taylor so you have to let them grow and develop into their own identity so out of respect for Coach Cashmore and Coach Henderson I will not be around.
MH - If there was one piece of advice for a young coach or teacher starting out here at Blackfoot High School what would it be?
CB - There's a couple of them. I started about every coach in this building and I always told them the same thing and that is, take care of your kids. Take care of your world and pay attention. Now, I would add that number one is be willing to fight the fight to keep your integrity and keep your place that you have fought for. You have to be willing to fight that fight because there is a lot of negativity and a lot of people that are looking to take you off your pedestal.
MH - Do you have a favorite memory either in the classroom or in the athletic arena?
CB - I think that my favorite thing of all is after the fact. When I get to see a Mark High, a Troy Simpson, a Alphonso Hernandez, a J.C. Percy. I just had a little girl that I had in AP Biology come walking into my room and said I heard that you were retiring and I thought you would like to know that I am working on my doctors thesis in sports psychology because of you and those type of things. When daddies come up to me and show their son and tell me that they tell them about me. Those are my favorite moments because I know that the book, that's what I call them. Every year you have a chapter. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior are each a chapter and when they graduate you never get to finish that good book that you fell in love with and it is so rewarding when they come back 2 years later, 5 years later, 10 years later and so those are the most rewarding moments. When the generations are bridged and I know that they have turned out to be good people.
MH - Where does Coach Barlow go from here?
CB - Oh. This is just like the seniors right now. It's such a confusing time. They are excited. Which they should be. They are sad. Which it should be. They're scared. Which they should be but they are courageous and brave and I feel no different. It's just a different stage in life. You graduate high school, you graduate college, you get married, you have a job and now you retire. One of our mottos in wrestling was next. You fight the next fight. You go to the next match, you go to the next bout and opponent and this is what's next for me and I am as excited as heck. My brothers make fun of me because I'm not the type of person to just sit around the camp fire. No, I gotta see what's around the next bend, what's over the next ridge. I always have to have a quest and I love nature and I think that she provides something exhilarating and beautiful for me each day. I love sunrises and sunsets and so I have a quest to go explore and discover. Whether it be new fishing holes or a new archery quest or new rivers to float. There is going to be a perfect place to be at a perfect spot at a perfect time. Little windows of opportunities and I will try to be at that perfect spot at that perfect time. I have a lovely wife that loves the nature and the outdoors as much as I do. I have a big old camper and I'm gone baby!