When you’ve spent a lifetime preparing for a particular job, you don’t generally consider it work once that job becomes yours.
Rob Bartlett grew up around football. His grandfather, Bob, was the head coach at Lewis and Clark High School for 13 seasons, the final two with his father, also named Bob, playing quarterback. His father was already coaching football himself by the time Rob was born, and was the head coach at University High School for eight seasons while his son was in grade school and middle school.
That brief history explains two things:
First, why Robert Bartlett III prefers to go by Rob.
Second, why Rob Bartlett is so passionate about coaching football, especially at University High School.
“I’ve been at the school all day, every day,” he said with a laugh. “But no, I can’t call it work. Once the state track meet was over, we had our spring football workouts. We did the Border League summer camp (at Central Valley), which is just an incredible experience for our kids because there are state champions all around you there, between Ferris and Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. We did a freshman camp. We’re into our summer weight training program now and we’re about to start a Pop Warner football camp that our coaching staff is going to run. And we still have our Titan Team Camp coming up.
“Every week it seems that we have something new starting and I have to say that I haven’t really taken the time to check the calendar, but I’m sure I’m going to turn around any day now and it’s going to be August 15 and the first day of turnouts.”
Like his dad, Bartlett played quarterback in high school – at least during his senior season (1996-’97) under then-head coach Mike Ganey. And while he began his coaching career elsewhere, including a stint as an assistant at East Valley with head coach Adam Fisher, the dream always was to come back and coach at his alma mater.
Bartlett applied for the U-Hi head coaching job three seasons ago, but the nod went to football coaching legend Bill Diedrick instead. For the past three seasons Bartlett has served as the team’s defensive coordinator.
The second time Bartlett applied for the job, it was a done deal – complete with a hearty endorsement from Diedrick to seal the bargain.
Where Bartlett was a fully qualified and well-regarded head coach candidate before, he’s now had a three-year Master Class in the game with Diedrick. And he takes over a much stronger program than the one Diedrick inherited – leading the Titans to three-straight postseason appearances for the first time in school history.
“There is an excitement about the program right now,” Bartlett said. “The incoming freshmen, the returning players, the parents –I think everyone involved in the program feels it.
“For me, I’ve been lucky enough to be around some great coaches. I got the chance to be around my grandfather, and I was here every day with my dad when he was coaching. The great thing about coming back and living close to my parents is that he and I get to talk football all the time.”
The veteran coaching staff Diedrick assembled at U-Hi returns intact, with fellow U-Hi alum Adam Daniel, a successful assistant coach at Mead and most recently the head coach at Newport, joining the staff to work with the offensive line and defensive ends –joining his brother, Jason Daniel, who’s already on staff.
A coaching philosophy evolves, Bartlett said, and his own ideas are incorporated into a mix that was influenced by his own family, of course, but also by other coaches he’s worked with.
“When I was at East Valley, not only was Adam (Fisher) the head coach but his father (longtime South Kitsap coach Ed Fisher) was there, too,” Bartlett explained. “I think the biggest thing I’ve come away with from them is a concept they teach their offensive linemen about finishing. They teach their linemen to finish their blocks and it’s something I immediately wanted to bring here and teach.
“East Valley has had a run of players in the past, but even when they haven’t had standout athletes, their offensive line is still formidable. You just don’t see that many teams line up the way they do and just run the football at you, and I think that concept of finishing an opponent and finishing a block is key to that success.”
Bartlett has made a change in the program’s weight program. Drew Buchkoski, the director of APX Strength and the coordinator of the successful weight program for the Ferris football program, is on board at U-Hi to help prepare the team for the 2012-’13 season. Raul Vijil, easily the most popular member of the Spokane Shock in franchise history and the team’s career leader in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns, is on board to help with speed and agility.
“I grew up around high school coaches and I love the way you have a chance to teach kids about what it takes to be successful, what you need to know to be a better person,” Bartlett said. “It’s a great responsibility that parents give us, allowing us to work with their sons. That’s why this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I hope I’m still here, still doing this 30 years from now.”