Josh Robinson has the date circled, underlined and inputted prominently in his phone’s calender of upcoming big events.
For most high school football coaches, any Friday night is big. For Robinson, the third-year Northwest Whitfield head coach, this year’s mid-September game against Pickens County comes with an extra element. No, it’s not a rivalry, there’s no payback to be had and it’s not any kind of statement game.
It comes on Friday the 13th, and for Robinson that means, well, everything. As we enter the 2013 prep football season the Times Free Press has scoured the practice fields looking for those touched with a little extra level of superstition. In Robinson — by his own admission — we found the poster boy.
“Where do you want to start?” Robinson said when asked if he had any superstitions. “I’ve got one million of them.”
For the energetic Robinson, nothing is off limits when it comes to avoiding bad luck.
“When I was the defensive line coach here, I always came out of the locker room last and I always touched the top of the wall,” he said, just warming up. “But I always made sure the other team knew I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. Now that I’m the head coach I wear the same underwear and socks every Friday, win or lose.
“I don’t know why. I’m a little weird … but I don’t mind saying it.”
Upon hearing those words, an assistant coach from across the room perked up and added, “A little?” The Northwest staff has learned to live with it, but it takes the players a while to get accustomed.
“He’s a little different,” senior Andy Whisenant said. “Hey, if it feels right I guess it’s the thing to do.”
Most teams have pregame routines. Robinson takes routine a little further.
“I try to say the same things when we warm up in pregame, and I walk a certain way onto the field,” he said. “Every time I take the field I wait until a certain time to walk to the sideline, and I take an exact number of steps. I count them as I walk. I do it every time.”
He also has a road-game routine that has fooled at least one rival coach.
“When we go away, it doesn’t matter if we going to Dalton or Southeast or out of town, I don’t dress until I get there,” he said. “There is a certain pair of shorts I wear, and if it’s cold I’ll wear a certain long-sleeve shirt. If it’s warm I’ll wear a short-sleeve shirt. Last year [Dalton coach] Matt Land was making fun of me. We got to Dalton and I was walking with the boys and I could see he was looking for me, so I veered off. He said, ‘I couldn’t tell it was you. You looked like one of the kids.’
“That kind of made me feel good.”
For Robinson and his fellow superstitious fraternity, whatever works, well, is worth trying again. And again. And again.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...