Wildman: Watts leads West Point to success
Monday, February 13, 2012
Army golf coach Brian Watts will tell you it’s hard to explain to someone what it’s like to be a cadet at West Point. The daily campus-wide schedule, organization, security and routine was just something he wasn’t used to while coaching at Oregon State. Now, in his second year, Watts is starting to fit in and become more comfortable on the Army campus.
Coach Watts lives on campus with all of the school’s other coaches, generals, majors, captains and other high-ranking military officials. It was before he became a full-time resident though, that he witnessed an event he still remembers like it was yesterday.
“It was R (reception) Day on campus,” Watts started to describe. “It’s the day parents drop their students off at West Point, get in line for a reception that lasts five minutes, and at the end of the reception in an auditorium are told they have five minutes to say goodbye to their children.” From there students exit the stage, get their first military-issued haircut, go over training, receive their gear, and at the end of the day enter a field in front of the barracks to take part in a welcoming parade.
Coach Watts describes watching this day as witnessing a kid right out of school instantly mature and undergo transformation into a cadet. “There are about 1,150 of these cadets who have all had their lives changed from just this morning,” Watts said. “Seeing crying parents who don’t know what will happen with their children in the future is a real experience you can’t imagine.”
At Army, like at all other military schools, academics and training come first. While cadets are also required to take part in an intramural or varsity sport, participation in those activities dosen’t occur until the latter part of the day.
One adjustment Coach Watts had to make when transitioning to Army from Oregon State’s easy-going campus was getting acclimated to the institution’s levels of security and scrutiny regarding the whereabouts of each cadet at all times. For Army to have a practice at a driving range only twenty minutes off-campus, each player must sign out and receive clearance to attend practice. It may sound harsh, but the safety of and concern for each cadet is a top priority.
When interviewing for the coaching job, Watts was caught a little off guard when it came to Army’s criteria for a coach. “I remember the first thing they told me was that I had to beat Navy,” Watts said. “I knew there was a rivalry there, but I never thought it was as heated as it was until I got here.”
Coach Watts will tell you that it is great to beat Navy, but his goals are a bit different than what some commanding officers may say. “I want to coach kids who want to get better,” Watts said. “I want kids who will buy in to working hard and committing to a process that will take time.”
Last year Army won the Patriot Conference, and will try to do so again this year. Army fans got a two for one special when their team not only won last year’s Patriot Conference, but beat Navy in the tournament as well.
Army and Oregon State are two completely different colleges with two entirely different types of student bodies, but Brian Watts is still the same coach: a coach who wants kids who will work hard and always strive to improve. Essentially, it seems that Coach Watts leading a golf team at Army was a perfect fit in that Army has another leader on their already impressive staff - only difference is, Watts’ highest title will always be “coach.”