Leaving the reservation: Longtime ECHS athletic staff members Knott, Waugh retire
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Thirty years may seem an awful long time to keep purple and gold at the forefront in one’s daily wardrobe. But most can’t imagine Lloyd Knott or Cindy Waugh being around any other two colors in the rainbow.
Their impending absence at East Coweta High after officially retiring from the school on Friday brought an appreciation and compounded loss the campus hasn’t felt for some time.
It comes at a time where nearly 2,000 Georgia educators announced retirements this weekend in order to keep a pension benefit that’s being eliminated in January. Knott and wife Lisa, a longtime social studies teacher, were among a group that did so at East Coweta that also included Waugh, the school’s athletic secretary since 1988.
Brantley, Newnan High’s head athletic trainer, for the past 32 years, is also retiring and will be the subject of an upcoming story in the Newnan Times-Herald.
Just as Newnan High’s “Radar” has kept an eye on Cougar athletes, Knott has been the mirror image at rival East Coweta. Much like modern-day cowboys, the pair have patrolled the field in 4-wheel utility vehicles, tending to bumps and bruises and equipment issues, ankle wraps and water jugs whether in the intense heat of early August or the bitter cold of late November.
All three of the “Amigos” were honored at halftime of this year’s East Coweta-Newnan football game with plaques for their years of service.
Knott, meanwhile, is already awaiting the Georgia Athletic Trainers Association’s next meeting at the beginning of 2013, where his longtime colleague has been nominated for its “Trainer of the Year” Award.
“I’m really hoping Radar gets it this year,” he said.
Knott was part of the staff that came over to the new campus in 1988 after working at the current East Coweta Middle School. A Mississippi native, he found his calling in athletic training, following his brother-in-law in the field after an unsuccessful attempt at a family hardware business with his dad and brother in the 1970s.
He had finished his Masters Degree at Mississippi University, where both Max Bass and former ECHS football coach Vernon Kidd did some of their graduate work as well when he heard about an opening in Coweta County. Both coaches saw the value of athletic trainers on campus, which is a requirement in other states like Texas, but not under the Georgia High School Association.
“I hope that will change one day. You’ve got to give a lot of the credit to Max Bass,” Knott said. “He’s the one who started trying to get athletic trainers in the high schools here.”
In the end, a tiny school in Sharpsburg — on its way to the state’s largest classification over the next 30 years — would be one of the benefactors of that plan.
“Lloyd Knott IS East Coweta,” said Evan Horton, the school’s principal and former athletic director. “I always told him [that] he is my safety valve. It didn’t matter what the situation was, I could always bounce things off him and ask his opinion. I’d call it fatherly advice. He’ll listens to you and you know he cares for these kids.”
Looking back after completing his final official day of work on Friday, it was the first thing that came to mind, well before any of the school’s list of memorable victories on the playing field.
“I’ll miss the kids ...,” said Knott, his voice breaking off. “That’s the main part. The students have been very appreciative. I’ve had a couple come up and say, ‘Who’s going to take care of us?’ You know how the oldest kid in the house, [how] eventually they leave? Well, that’s me.”
While coaches game-planned victories, Knott played a behind-the-scenes role in East Coweta’s success, allowing practices to run as close to routine every day. When campus emptied for the holidays, some could still find him roaming around in his John Deere “Gator.” Outside of the week of July 4 — the GHSA’s mandatory “dead-week” — there hasn’t been many off days.
“That’s when I could really get things done,” he said in a combination of his matter-of-factness and wit. “Basically it’s three jobs. You’re a teacher, an athletic trainer and an equipment manager. Cause you can’t really send them out their naked.”
He plans on slowing things down now, having recently turned 60. After a grace period of 30 days due to the clause in his retirement, Knott expects to be back around campus here and there, but with no immediate plans for the future.
“My body’s not what it used to be,” he said. “Some people have said ‘travel’ and things like that. I plan to just sit at home. I’m sure I’ll have my Honey Do list.”
In addition to health and athletic training classes at the school, Knott also taught “Sports-First Aid” and “Principals of Coaching” classes through the Georgia High School Association. He’s mentored a long line of student trainers, managers and former ball boys, the names of which he rattled off without hesitating. Some went on to pursue medical fields.
On the sidelines, meanwhile, Knott became equally invaluable to East Coweta’s athletic staff members. At times, at least on the football field, his voice carried as much clout when it came to talks about representing the school with dignity and pride.
“When it comes down to it, you’re either a teacher or you’re not,” he said. “Young people are good in nature for the most part. Some don’t always do things the right way. Who’s going to teach them. MTV? You become invested.”
Knott was just as vested in East Coweta athletics and respective coaching staffs while on the scene at nearly every school event. When he wasn’t, he made sure a trainer was staffed in his place.
“There’s no replacing him. He leaves a big hole,” said Indians head football coach Clint Wade, who arrived at the school just three years after Knott in 1991. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without him. He’s done a lot for a lot of programs. You almost take him for granted, all the things he does.”
In many ways, Waugh equally was at the heart of East Coweta athletics behind the scenes for a long line of athletic directors, many of whom went on to bigger administrative roles within the school system. A line of endless paperwork included schedules, rosters, game contracts and player eligibility while keeping the lines of communication flowing between staff members.
“We’ve had a lot of good athletic directors that have come through here,” said Waugh of a group that includes the man East Coweta’s gymnasium is now named after. “John Thrower was like my brother. Someone who just had a great influence on my life.”
Waugh also shared a bond among the county’s three high school athletic secretaries that include Renee Hudson at Newnan and Darlene Williams at Northgate.
“I’ve learned a lot of things working between Renee Hudson and Darlene. We all share a sisterhood,” she said. “We understand the language real well.”