Is it me or are coaches retiring nowadays just ‘old school’?
They are not about ‘me’ or ‘I’.
They are about ‘we’ and you’ve got to love it.
Without a doubt, Don Harridge is ‘old school’.
Here is a coach that was in charge of the Lady Mustangs track program that won the district championship every year he wore the top hat—yet he wanted nothing to do with getting a pat on the back.
He was an assistant football coach for three different coaches at AHS—which prides itself in being the best on and off the field—yet he wouldn’t take an ounce of credit.
“It’s all about the girls,” said the very popular coach, talking about his track program. “I can tell you this much—there are a lot better track coaches than the one I am. Having thoroughbreds in the stable made it easy for me.
“I’ll always have the ‘Black and Gold’ in me and the day they burn me they are going to put me in the ground as an Andrews Mustang.”
A West Texas boy at heart, Harridge graduated from Kermit High School and went on to play football at McMurry University in Abilene as an outside linebacker.
“I’m a West Texas boy,” he almost bragged. “Always have been and looks like I always will be.
“In football I was quick and afraid those big guys were going to catch me—it’s amazing what you can do when you are scared.”
The first teaching job for Harridge—who along with his beautiful wife Gayla has two daughters, Ashley and Amber Harridge—was at Bowie Junior High in Odessa. That was before taking a job in Seminole and staying there for the next 23 years.
He came to Andrews in 2006 and the rest is sports history.
“This has been on my mind for the last two or three years and I finally figured if I was going to do it, now would be the time,” Harridge said. “It probably won’t hit me until next year if I made the right decision or not.
“Missing the kids will be the hardest thing for me. Just being around them and having fun with them. You have to have fun in your life, period.”
A football coach at heart, Harridge was a huge part of the Mustangs’ success over the last eight years. Whether as a linebackers or a special teams coach, his kids were always ready and prepared to play.
To say Harridge didn’t leave his mark on the Lady Mustangs track program would be an insult to him—even if he wanted no part of getting a pat on the back.
Under his track leadership, Andrews crowned a state champion twice, sent three different long jumpers to state as well as a hurdler and high jumper.
“Those were some good times,” he said. “The state track meet is just amazing and the level of competition is crazy good.
“I have a lot of great memories in track. Getting the kids to state was amazing. But all those were just as enjoyable as watching some JV girl come out and work—and work some more—and score a point at the district meet with a sixth-place finish and see the thrill in her eyes. It is a beautiful thing to see.
“The girls have done a wonderful job for me. My last couple of years we would have the meet title sewn up right after the mile and our numbers have always been great.
“It’s like I said at the sports awards banquet the other night, ‘When we pull up in our bus I wanted all the teams saying, well, I hope we can get second.’”
For Harridge, who with a half-smile said his wife had a ton of honey-dos for him, it’s on to a different life and certainly a different role.
“It’s a little of both,” he said when asked if it was a sad time or a good time. “I’m going to miss it all. Those Friday nights of football were special to me. I worked with a lot of great coaches and had some great assistant coaches in track and I owe them all so much.
“In track I haven’t done anything. The girls did it all. All I would tell them was to run fast and turn left. Track is hard enough, so you have to have some fun with it.
“There were two things I’ve always told my girls and they were good at it. I told them they have to work hard and compete and that they have to do that the rest of their lives. I also told them I’m retiring—not going away. I’ll be at some of their meets.”
Simply put—it’s not like an old cowboy riding off into the sunset on his horse.
It’s more like a darn good coach saying, my time has come, and quietly sneaking out the back door.
Whether it is a good thing or not—they just don’t make them like Don Harridge anymore.