The Paper file photo by Lori Poteet
The Paper file photo by Lori Poteet
A legend among Montgomery County coaches is calling it a career. Ed Stuffle has announced his retirement from North Montgomery after 41 years.

Stuffle has been a Charger for nearly as long as North Montgomery has existed. After applying for the golf coach position in the fall of 1971, Stuffle turned his attention to track and field. He began as an assistant in the boys track program in the spring of 1973 - just a year into the school's existence. Stuffle then took the reigns as head coach of the girls' program in the spring of 1977 and never looked back.

"The golf course is really what drew me to running," said Stuffle. "I was always on the course and I saw guys running around and thought 'that doesn't look too tough,' so I got started into running myself."

Things quickly picked up after that with the founding of the Cherry Grove Track Club in the mid 1970s. Stuffle said that the club held a 10k that gave roots to the current four mile road race at the Strawberry Festival. From there Stuffle got involved with another track club.

"We did New Horizon's Track Club in the summer to try to teach parents, the community and kids in general that there is a travel track club just like there are for other sports. We have had great success there and made many trips to the national championships."

One of the reasons Stuffle is so drawn to track and cross country is that the competition doesn't change over time.

"Track and field is track and field. Cross Country is cross county," he said. "It's the same sport even in different age groups, but you're still competing against the same people you have for years. That allows you to develop some really good relationships."

That same belief is one of the reasons that Stuffle finds himself getting out of the game. He stepped down as the cross country coach seven years ago because he found himself in a place where he couldn't keep up with the younger athletes.

"I have always been a believer that track and cross country coaches need to be with the athletes when they're coaching," he explained. "When it got to the place that they were outrunning me, I thought it was time for some new blood to get in there."

"I can still jump, pole vault, do the shot put and those sorts of things. Not as well as I used to obviously, but if I can be right there with them I think it's helpful," he continued. "You know what they're experiencing because you are experiencing the same thing."

Stuffle said that a lot of his philosophy and understanding of the psychology of coaching came from Gren Lefebve. Chuck Kristen was also a major influence on Stuffle, especially in terms of organization.

"I learned a lot from Gren about the psychology of coaching," said Stuffle. "Chuck Kristen was the second athletic director I worked for and he taught me to be very organized. That helped me plan for the big meets. You always try to plan for the unexpected. As Assistant Athletic Director, A.D.s have asked me to run some meets and those organizational skills were instrumental."

For a man with so many organizational skills, Stuffle is hoping to just let loose for a while.

"As my children were growing up I spent a lot of time at the track and so did they," he said. "It got to the point where I wasn't able to watch my grand kids, so I wanted more time to watch them compete. I've had more time this summer to watch baseball games than ever before. I think my schedule of watching them compete is going to pick up now."

That free time will be thanks to stepping away from coaching the sport he loves, but you won't find Stuffle too far from the track for too long. He is a long time official (since 1975) and has seen plenty of the world on his travels with officiating that he doesn't intend to do much leisurely travel. For now Stuffle is going to enjoy his family and officiate at his own pace. The legacy he leaves behind will not soon be forgotten.

"He's the dean of the track coaches in Montgomery County," said Sean Gerold. Gerold got his coaching start under stuffle in 2005. Gerold was a student at Wabash and was student teaching at North Montgomery. "He's been very helpful to all of us."

"The one thing that I will always remember about Coach Stuffle was how helpful he was to the other programs in terms of coaching," said CHS Athletic Director Bryce Barton. "There were no secrets. He wanted the best for Montgomery County and always wanted to see the athletes be their best. He passed that along to our coaches. Coach Stuffle was always in it for the right reasons - he was in it for the kids."

"He's been a mainstay at North Montgomery and has helped me out tremendously with his involvement in our athletic programs," said North Montgomery Athletic Director Matt Merica. "He touched the lives of kids every day over the years. There's a lot of lives he's influenced."

"Coach Stuffle has been a formidable foe throughout his career," said Marvin Walters, who has been a coach at Southmont for 36 years. "I respect him very much and I think we've been close friends over the last several years. He will definitely be missed."

Wherever his new endeavors may take him, Ed Stuffle will always be right at home on the track.

"I always felt like the track and cross country courses were my classrooms without walls. I love teaching and when I get out there I felt like there were no limitations and we could achieve anything we went for."

Montgomery County will forever be indebted to the work of Coach Stuffle in shaping athletes and young people.