LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A belated Thank-You to Coach Robert Erves

Published 4:00 am Sunday, September 18, 2022

One question many ask is, can anyone be successful?

Most who are not successful attribute it to their family background — perhaps, that’s not true. A typical example is portrayed by one of Vicksburg’s finest Hall of Fame Inductees.  

It’s an individual who was raised on a farm by parents with less than high-school education. This individual stated many times that he was not a straight-A student. He attended early elementary school in Aurora, Ill. 

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Upon returning to Vicksburg, he attended Bovina Elementary  School and started high school at Rosa A. Temple; then on to Warren Central, where he received his high school diploma. He gained many honors as a football player: best defensive player, all-county defensive player, and recognition as one of the state’s top defensive players, just to name a few. 

After graduation, in December 1971 he went on to attend college at Mississippi Valley State University. Here again, during his tenure there he gave his all to the game of football, and he received many honors as a defensive football player. After graduation, he was offered an opportunity to become a free agent for the pros. With all the risk involved, he elected to return home to take a position as a football coach — the game he loved.

He was hired as the Junior High School Head Coach for Warren Central. In this position, he was the only coach to have a 9-0 season. As some of his players, we never really understood some of his ways, but in the end, we got the full picture. For example, as a player on that team that went 9- 0, we got to the last quarter of the game and Coach literally stopped coaching.

He walked over to the player’s bench and sat down. When it was time to call the next play to end the game, he just sat there. He called the captains over and they questioned what was wrong. He told them that the rest of the game was their decision; that he was not going to have anything to do with it, that the decision was up to them. The captains got  together and told the rest, “Let’s shout them down!”

After the game, the captains asked the question: What happened to you when you put us in a spot to make a decision like calling the last plays?

With a big chuckle, he gave the head captain a high five and said: “I coach boys to men, not babies. Your decision was my reward, and y’all shut them down.”

During his tenure as a coach in the Vicksburg Warren School District, he was the only individual who has coached as many sports and was successful: football, basketball, track, power lifting and baseball. His team won the state championship in power lifting. This individual taught the following during his tenure: industrial technology, career development, science and history. 

He retired as a result of a health problem but is still often called upon for advice as to how he would handle a situation. When asked how did he make it, he always has the same reply.

“I believe in prayer. But, you have to have desire combined with determination to come out on top. You must be willing to put in the work in order to come out on top.”

He stated that parents can teach you right from wrong, but you must want to be successful on your own.

In his comments, he added the idea that a coach must first love his players. He said he learned how players should be treated by the best method that children learn; through experience.

He said, “I was taught by the best coaches: at Temple, Coach Lee Arthur Ferguson; at Warren Central, Coach Lum Wright Sr.; and at MVSU, Coach Davis Weatherby. These three people were like a father on and off the field. 

“As a freshman in college, my parents’ house burned. There were eight siblings with nowhere to live other than with a family member. Having coached six of the eight children, Coach Lum Wright and Coach John White, who was my brother’s basketball coach, with their staff and friends pulled together and built my family another house. This is why I am partially the coach I am; I was taught by the best. Love not only what you do, but love who you work with as well.”

Have you figured out just who this special individual is? It’s none other than Retired Coach Robert Erves. 

All the players who played under him stated that with him, it was all serious business. They stated one big thing that made players want to do their best had a lot to do with his voice tone and a genuine sense of showing that he cared about each of his players. He settled for nothing but their best effort. Excuses were unacceptable! Along the way, during his tenure, Coach Erves has occasionally paid for a player’s light bill, lunch, school supplies and whatever it took to keep his players focused on academics, athletics and out of trouble. Few coaches are made like him anymore.  

Even now, as adults, we sometimes turn to him for advice. 

We salute and appreciate you, Coach.

Congratulations from “That team you coached from boys to men.”