He’s spent the past 29 years teaching and coaching in the RISD, the last 16 at Lake Highlands High School. Now, Bob Williams — LHHS alum, tennis coach, English teacher, father of three achieving children and husband of one “lovely wife” — shares about how his career chose him rather than the other way around, and how he plans to keep things interesting in the years to come.
When did you know you wanted to teach?
I didn’t really know until the day, while attending undergraduate school at UT Austin, that I saw a sign on the wall advertising an internship with the Teacher Corps, like the Peace Corps for teachers. I think the whole thing was a small miracle — I saw the sign two days before applications were due, and I was actually able to get all the paperwork in and get selected. I was the only white man on a team working in the inner city, in West Dallas projects and with the Dallas County Juvenile Department. I feel like God led me there, which led me into teaching.
Coaching and teaching — what do you like about each and why? And give me a warm fuzzy story if you have one.
Indoors is different from outdoors. Academics and athletics are complimentary. You’re a teacher inside wearing a tie, or a coach outside in short pants. It allows for different types of relationships. As a coach, you get to work with them on life lessons. For example, during the district tennis tournament, one of our best players was really struggling — he was feeling bad, and early on he felt like giving up, but I was able to talk with him, encourage him, and then witness his strengthening of character through the experience. He did the work, but I got to engage in the battle with him — what a wonderful opportunity to go through that with a kid.
You work with young people outside of school, too, right?
Yes, for the past four summers I’ve taken a group of college-age students to work at a sports camp in Cairo, Egypt. As the coach responsible for the group, I got to watch God work in each of these kids’ lives. I also have a painting business and students work for me. I pick the ones I know will do a good job. I get quality labor, and they get good work experience. I’ll let them work for me a few years before I tell them to go get a real job. This painting business has been going on about 26 years. I will also be running a tennis camp for kids in grade 1-8 in June. We are going to have several good coaches, and hope to get a ton of kids involved and increase tennis in this area.
What inspired you to reach out to kids like you do?
When I was 18, I went on a trip to Europe with a youth leader and another young girl — well, the two of them began an affair, and I got fed up and ended up going off in Europe on my own. It was such a great lesson. My original idea was to take students to Europe and then after a week, leave them there alone so they could have the experience I had. Well, that wasn’t exactly what God had planned, but the Egypt opportunity way overshadowed those ideas anyway.
So this summer — no Egypt?
Not this summer. It is a difficult trip that takes time from family and other work. There are other things I feel more compelled to do right now.
Going back to school. I am starting on a master’s degree in humanities at the University of Dallas. And I am so excited about it. I’ve already started doing the reading. This is the first time I get to go to college. The last time I had to go, but now I get to go.
Interested in summer tennis camps for kids? E-mail Bob Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org