John Williams back in the element with return as PAHS track coach
Twenty-six years after he began his coaching career at Port Allen, John Williams has come full circle.
The veteran coach and assistant principal will head back to the site of his greatest moments when he takes over the helm of the Port Allen boys track team. He will replace Leonard Parker, who stepped away from track and now serves as an assistant on the girls basketball team.
“I love the coaching, the instructing, and seeing things come together and watch the kids develop,” Williams said. “It’s fun to watch things come together and watch them succeed.
“I first came to Port Allen as a coach, and this has always been what I loved most,” he said.
Between 1991 and 2007, Williams coached girls track and had a stint with the boys program. In the process, he built the program into a state power with Class 3A state titles for girls track in 1995, 2006 and 2007.
The girls state title win in 2007 brought him a top prize in track twice in one year, just three months after the boys claimed the 3A championship trophy in indoor track.
The girls also garnered Class 3A state runner-up in 1998 and 2008.
Williams stepped down at the same time he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“The kids became my coach, to some respect,” he said. “In many ways, their motivation and support kept me going when I was sick.”
Williams underwent treatment and emerged cancer-free, but he also faced another battle on the home front.
The Williams family home in North Baton Rouge was destroyed in 2008 during Hurricane Gustav. He and his family left with nothing more than the clothes on his back.
“We just thanked God we were still alive,” he said in a 2008 interview. “We were blessed.”
In the meantime, Williams stayed active on the sidelines with the program, mainly during the track meets at Guy Otwell Stadium.
“Even when I was coaching, they’d sometimes ask me to look at this or that, and I was always glad to give my input,” he said. “I couldn’t get coaching out of my blood.”
When Parker stepped away, however, Williams heard opportunity knock.
“My kids are grown up, and I’m feeling much better these days,” he said. “This was the perfect opportunity to go back to doing what I love to do.”
Now back in his element, Williams wants to have fun and maybe have another round of championship glory.
“Every day, I go out there and I’m having a ball,” he said. “Being on the track, the jumping pit, the shotput area – everything – I just love all of it.”
Even with the return to the site of his original glory, Williams realizes the quest for the championship won’t come any easier than it did in his heyday.
“It’s really too early to tell what will happen,” he said. “We have a lot of talent, but we also have a lot of work to do.”
“I missed coaching and I’m glad to be back,” Williams said. “I’m just going to work hard, do the best for these kids and enjoy this return every step of the way.”