Freeze Column: Roseman just drives the bus
By David Freeze
Rick Roseman was a baseball coach, working with the East Rowan High School legend Phil Harbison. The team had a coaching change, leaving Roseman to decide whether to continue or try something new.
The school needed a cross country coach, and Roseman decided to take on a new challenge. Trouble was that he knew nothing of cross country methods, and didn’t have an idea of how to score the meets.
That opportunity to coach cross country came 26 years ago, and Roseman is still at it. While some might say that his successes lend to building a dynasty, Roseman himself says that he is building a ‘family’. He mentions previous athletes regularly, often in the same breath as current team members. Roseman tells graduated team members that they will always be a part of “We.”
In his early years, Roseman and East High benefitted from the influx of the Faith Flyers into the program. Ed Dupree trained young runners, exposed them to competition, and sent them off to high school. Roseman benefitted from assistant coaches and athletes who often knew more about running than he did. Julie Smith, Amy Flynn, Jim Brooks and Scott Julian were some of the coaches who he says did so much to improve the team. Roseman laughed when he remembered Amy Flynn telling him that the team needed to go to a cross country camp in the summer. Roseman was amazed and said “You mean we have to go somewhere else to run? Then have somebody else tell us when to run? And we have to pay to do this?” Flynn persisted and a long time tradition was born.
Roseman, who also coaches track and was a teacher for 34 years, expects kids to do their best. In the early days, cross country was not a popular sport but he always had enough for a team. Previous to Roseman taking the team, East had 4 coaches in 5 years. A favorite memory was of an early meet in the pouring rain. The team, largely made of former Faith Flyers, was ready and eager to run. Roseman said “I would have been OK with them staying the van, but I found what they were made of. Now it is like that with all my athletes. I have expectations, but the kids have even more.”
One motivational rule that he asks the East teams to remember is the ‘Cody and Big Daddy Rule.’ Jamie Ledbetter was a custodian who cared about and worked with the football, track and cross country teams. He died of pancreatic cancer, leaving a huge void at the school. Cody Ludwig was a senior track athlete who died of heart complications. Roseman said “These two men exemplified what I want our kids to realize. The rule states ‘Expect and demand nothing less than your best and do for the team!’ I ask the kids often to remember this.”
Current assistants Jon Heidrick and Billy Mills join Roseman in providing the means for motivated kids to succeed. The kids set their own reachable, yet demanding goals. They let the upperclassmen mentor the younger runners, and they never count any runner out. Roseman said “A lot of the kids really don’t like to run, but they enjoy their teammates and they love to win. Often we can’t get them to leave practice. They gather in Coach Mills’ classroom before school. We want them all to experience a special season, not just a sport. I tell them to appreciate each other more often, and to express that you love them. That bond and mutual respect is apparent. This goes for all runners, whether they are fast or not.”
At East, the students and coaching staff are a team year round. A meet or a trip to a road race is an event. They take a bus and a pickup loaded with tents, tables, a flag and refreshments. Former team member Adam Cornelius remembers “We never did anything like this when I was here.”
Yet Cornelius recently passed several of the current team to win the Spooky Sprint 5K, remembering that Coach Roseman believed in him while on the team years ago. Cornelius went to the recent State 3A Meet in Kernersville to pull for “his” team.
Roseman’s tenure includes Rowan County Champ 17 times, North Piedmont Champs 6 times including the last 3 years, Regional Champ once, and placed in the State 3-A Meet 14 times. Rebecca Frick Julian, Benjamin Frick, and current leader Cole Honeycutt were just a few of the standouts. Roseman says the kids are the reason for the success. He credits supportive parents and school administration, including long-time principal Kelly Sparger. Current team parent and photographer Ashley Honeycutt said “He does so many good things, yet always deflects attention to the kids and the other coaches.” Roseman summed it all up with “I don’t have a running history, and don’t know how fast I run. I just drive the bus, get the kids there safely, and try to keep them motivated.”