Let me start by saying this. I didn’t attend the visitation for Coach Perrin. It was on a Thursday night and I had a cross country meet in Muhlenberg County. I had to drive the bus and coach. I didn’t attend the funeral either. Our faculty had already received an email telling us how many subs were in the building that day and we didn’t need to miss unless it was an emergency. You know what I think about my missing those events. I think Coach Perrin understood. If there was anybody who appreciated hard work and commitment, it was him. Besides, I had already decided to honor his life in a column, so here goes.
Jim Perrin grew up in a little community named Soddy Daisy near Chattanooga, Tenn. He excelled in high school football. After high school, Jim attended college at Austin Peay where he played four years of football. Jim then began his long and storied coaching career at Christian County High School. Let’s look at the accolades. He was an assistant coach on two state championship football teams. He started the wrestling program, won one state championship and was runner-up once. He started the softball program and won a basket full of state championships. He eventually became the school’s athletic director. After Jim’s retirement from Christian County, he took the head softball coaching job at Austin Peay for five years. The end of Jim Perrin’s career in athletics included a short stint as Trigg County’s athletic director and softball coach. The final stage of his career was a return to his roots as he coached the Christian County softball team to the state tournament this past spring.
OK, that’s enough talk of the championships. Most folks have heard about them. What was the key to his success? Let me weigh in on that, if I may. For one thing, Jim Perrin was the most disciplined individual that I have ever met in my life. He was disciplined and he expected his teams to be disciplined as well. He always strove for perfection. His softball team would win by 15 runs on the road and he would be totally silent on the way home if he felt they had not played to their potential. I mean, not a word. His players would get the message that their coach was not happy. It has been said that his silent treatment killed them, as they wanted to please him so badly.
One day, Coach Perrin had a girl that didn’t run hard on a routine fly ball. His rule was simple. You run as hard as you can on all balls you hit whether or not they should be easily caught. The next day, his team was playing at Warren East. He had calculated how far the distance was from the left field foul pole to the right field foul pole. He then figured out how many trips it would be back and forth to make five miles. During the entire game, his player that had not run out the fly ball ran back and forth till she totaled five miles. One of the Warren East players asked her coach Phil Burkeen what the Christian County girl was doing. Coach Burkeen said, “She is running five miles for not running out a fly ball yesterday.” The girl replied, “That is a little harsh don’t you think?” Coach Burkeen said, “THAT is why they are state champions.”
Former Christian County wrestler and assistant coach Kirk Lancaster told me the following story. “We lost a match one time that we should have won. We returned home and Coach sent everybody to the mat room. This is after we got back from the match. He had every wrestler do one thousand push-ups before they left. That is 40 sets of 25. We were to wrestle a great Hoptown team the next day before the student body.” According to Lancaster, everybody completed the push-ups and Christian County clobbered the heavily favored Hoptown team the next day.
Coach Perrin believed in fundamentals. His first softball practice every year became a thing of legend. He would start by showing his girls how to hold a softball. After going 45-0 and winning the state championship, he started the next year by saying and teaching, “This is how you hold a softball.”
It is a testament to Coach Perrin’s life that former opposing coaches and so many of his former players came to honor his life. Lacey Briscoe, one of the new CCHS softball coaches, was his first recruit at Austin Peay. Briscoe, who came from Illinois, had the following to say about Coach Perrin. “He promised my parents that he would take care of me. He was like my dad in the South. He watched after me while I was at Austin Peay and has ever since then.”
The last two points I have to make about Jim Perrin are these. First, he loved and was proud of his family. His wife Lisa, three children and three grandchildren survive him. The last time I saw Coach, he was in his wheelchair at the Taste of the Pennyrile Dinner in Hopkinsville. He shook my hand and we talked. Then, despite his weakened condition, he somehow lifted his newest grandchild Noah into his lap. Jim then proceeded to tell me what a good little athlete Noah is going to be. There was a gleam in his eye when he spoke those words. That is the last time I saw Coach Perrin.
The very last point about Coach Perrin is the most important. It is about Coach Perrin’s faith. Concerning this, I talked to Eldridge Rogers, Jim’s brother-in-law. Eldridge said, “I asked Jim if he ever said, ‘Why me?’” Eldridge said that Jim replied, “The good Lord knows what he is doing. I am ready when he calls me. It is in his hands.”
To use a softball analogy, Coach Perrin was a good man who lived an exceptional life. In the latter stages of his life, he rounded third and the Lord called him home. It is my firm belief that Jim Perrin is now Safe At Home.
OT: I am proud to have called Jim Perrin my friend.
OTT: Jim Perrin did excellent work at Trigg County, but his love for Christian County was always evident. He loved his Colonels. He was a Colonel at heart. Just about all conservations with Coach Perrin included the phrase, “At Christian County, we did it this way ...”
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.