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August 21, 2013

Notebook: Wildman's sanctuary: Sharon football coach

---- — Gimme Shelter is how Mick and the lads defined it a generation ago.

Sanctuary.

Everybody needs it.

Jim Wildman’s sanctuary is Sharon High’s football program.

Less than 24 hours from his first practice — and second stint as head coach — life took a turbulent turn for the Tigers’ taskmaster.

While sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon watching television, Wildman was accosted in his front doorway by a former player. The physical toll it took on Wildman is still evident, while the legal process will take its course in the coming weeks.

However during the first of two-a-days at preseason camp Wildman addressed his team prior to the morning session, then returned to for the evening workout. Though his physician advised he not overtax himself, his mere presence spoke volumes as he meandered about the field behind Shenango Inn, quietly interacting with coaches and players. Less than a week later, Wildman was back full time, accompanying his team to Franklin for a scrimmage.

“I feel great! I feel re-energized. I’m excited, and I’m ready to go,” Wildman said on a recent afternoon from the Tiger Stadium locker room.

“I told our kids after the scrimmage — and they know what’s gone on in the last week — but this past week, the time spent with those 60 players and those dozen adult coaches was,” Wildman emphasized, “my therapy.

“That was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”

While the setting was Franklin on a mid-August Saturday morning with only the most die-hard and/or curious spectators in attendance — far removed from the mid-1990’s at Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium against Berwick in back to back PIAA Class AAA championship games — it was the remedy necessary for Wildman, not only to begin healing, but to return to a sense of normalcy.

“Making that trip ... ” Wildman related, “ ... a different backyard, a different environment. We’ve been teaching (the players) enthusiasm, togetherness. ... They came out, and they were having fun.”

Wildman continued, the competitive juices flowing from his voice: “Enthusiasm can be an intimidator if it’s used in the right way; it can be a motivator for your own team. ... We came out early, struggled a little bit offensively, shut them down defensively. We scored three times; they didn’t score.

“The intangibles. ... We executed — certainly not one hundred percent, but that’s why God made tomorrow’s practice,” Wildman continued, noting, “But it was the intangibles that were good — the togetherness, the leadership, the camaraderie, and that’s part of the (Sharon program) culture.”

Fast-forwarding from when he retired in February 2002 as Mercer County’s winningest scholastic football coach (208) to the present, Wildman related an anecdote from last February when he initially was re-hired.

“ ... We had 40, 45 kids in the weight room, three times a week — and we never had that back in the ’80s, ’90s, early 2000’s. During my time as a head coach, we never had that kind of turnout.

“This group has just bought in. The theme is, ‘You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.’ And right now, that percentage keeps growing, so I think the commitment that they’ve made is most important.”

Regardless of what 2013 holds in terms of number of wins, this much is certain: Jim Wildman is all in, glad to be back home at the helm.

Ed Farrell is assistant sports editor for The Herald

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