A legendary figure in the world of high school sports has retired from the game of softball to spend more time with another bunch of young kids - his grandchildren.
Photo by Staff
Longtime Briarwood Academy Head Softball Coach Robert Waller has officially turned the Lady Bucs dugout over to Coach Christian Tiller after eight years on the diamond. Coach Tiller is beginning his second year on the Lady Buc staff, where he served as assistant coach during the 2005 season.
"A person's grandchildren are small for only a short time, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can," Coach Waller said. "Scott is now three years old and Bonner is only four months old, and I know they will keep me busy."
Waller's coaching career started way back in 1970, where he served as junior varsity football coach in Warren County for four years.
"Coaching has been a wonderful part of my life, and softball has been the best part," Coach Waller said. "Good athletes make good coaches, and over the years here at Briarwood, I have coached some of the greatest students and athletes ever. Everyone has really worked hard to be successful for the Briarwood softball program."
In 1974, Waller coached varsity football at Warren County High and then became the Screaming Devils' assistant coach for the 1975 and 1976 seasons. After spending five years in the Warren County program, he got out of coaching for a while.
Coach Waller started teaching in the McDuffie County School System in 1982, and in 1990 along with Dan Moore, they started a baseball team at Norris Middle School. He served in that capacity for three years.
Coach Waller then became Norris Middle's head softball coach for the 1996 and 1997 seasons. The Lady Bulldogs won the region championship in 1997 and that season also marked the first time ever that Norris had beaten a Columbia County team.
In the spring of 1998, Coach Waller became the head baseball coach at Briarwood Academy. In the fall of 1998, he took over the leadership of the Lady Buccaneer softball program from Alton Johnson. From 1999-2006, Coach Waller also served as Briarwood's junior varsity baseball coach.
"Coach Alton Johnson laid the groundwork for my early days here at Briarwood," Waller said. "He did a superb job for the Lady Buccaneers, and I was very fortunate to inherit some of his great players."
Since his inaugural year of 1998 at Briarwood, Waller has compiled a 152-54 overall coaching record in girl's softball that includes three region championships, two state runner-up finishes, a top five finish in the state and seven consecutive appearances in the post-season playoffs. His playoff record is 16-12.
From 1998-2003, Briarwood Academy played slow-pitch softball before moving to fast-pitch status in 2004. During this tenure, Waller also coached two GISA All-Star Teams to all-star victories.
Starting in 1999, the Waller-coached Lady Buccaneers made the GISA state softball playoffs for seven consecutive years. The squad won the region championship in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and was state runners-up in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, the Lady Bucs finished in the top five in the state.
"Fast-pitch softball was a totally new game for me when we changed to it in 2004," Coach Waller said. "It was a great learning challenge for me and my players."
Coach Waller said he's always encouraged his players not to make excuses for what happens on the softball diamond.
"Over these eight years at Briarwood, I have been very fortunate to coach some of the greatest players in all the state of Georgia," said Coach Waller. "...We never had an undefeated season and never won the state, but all our kids went out there and played to the best of their ability. Those losses in the state tournaments were tough and heartbreaking, but we gave it our best."
Coaching and working with kids has been Coach Waller's life since the early 1970's. He sums up the definition of coaching as a simple meaning: "Giving a child advice and having them put that advice into practice."
His coaching philosophy can be explained in just two words - "work hard."
"Hard work will bring out the best in students and athletes. Talented players will be better in every aspect of the game through hard work," he said. "Hard work will make players out of athletes that are not talented. At Briarwood, we had a philosophy on how to do things, and we did it that way."
This past spring, the Briarwood softball program received one of the greatest honors a school could receive. Two of Coach Waller's seniors off the 2005 squad were named to the Augusta State Lady Jaguars college softball team.
"We are very proud of Katie Reese and Beth Gerlach. They have worked extremely hard to earn this distinction," Waller said. "I know they will make the officials of Briarwood proud of them in the classroom and on the field."
He also credited the team's parents for part of the success, including the softball facilities at the school.
"We were able to build dugouts, a fieldhouse, a batting cage, install a wall and construct a scoreboard with the hands-on participation and support from a great corps of parents," he said.
Coach Waller will continue his efforts in the classroom, teaching sixth through ninth grade math and physical education.
Coach Robert Waller never posted a losing season as Briarwood's softball coach. Following is a breakdown of his career at Briarwood:
1998 - 8-8
1999 - 14-5
2000 - 22-6
2001 - 22-9 (won region)
2002 - 25-8 (won region - state runnerup)
2003 - 30-7 (won region - state runnerup)
2004 - 16-9 (top 5 in state)
2005 - 15-2
TOTAL - 152-54