Coach Jamie Riggs – The “Total” Package
Guest Column by Alan Baker
As Coach Jamie Riggs recently announced his pending retirement from T. R. Miller High School and with my having enjoyed such a close connection with him in varying capacities over the years, I felt compelled to share my personal insights and reflections in honor of a hometown hero who so positively impacted the Brewton community and far beyond. My desire is to provide a glimpse of what propelled this scrawny running back from T.R. Miller High School into the statewide and national spotlight as an exceptional coach with his perpetual winning,…and not with the occasional premier athlete that cycles through a program but instead relying on the average athletes who bought into the process to become great players,…confidently and courageously competing with the “spirit of T.R. Miller”.
Indeed, Coach Jamie Riggs was the “Total” package as a Head Coach who skillfully crafted a process, a system, a program for perpetual success built upon several foundational blocks. Those foundational blocks included: placing the team above the individual – recognizing, instilling, & promoting that every player on the team has worth and value to the success of the program whether a starter, substitute, special teams player or a scout teamer – playing with great technique (fundamentals of the game) – discipline that is consistent (never jeopardize the program for a win) – building not only the physical toughness but as much so the mental toughness. Whereas many coaches of the game would only nibble at some of these concepts, Coach Riggs developed, implemented and steered the program steadfastly based on these priorities.
As a former assistant football coach at TRM, I was privileged to have served for almost 2 decades with and under Coach Jamie Riggs. Reflecting on our early school days of being classmates and playing football together at T. R. Miller High School, Jamie was a running back who didn’t have much size, but excelled due to his speed, elusive agility, toughness, and competed with the heart of a champion…traits and skills he would incorporate into his evolving program.
Jamie, in his humble demeanor, would be the first to acknowledge that he built the program upon a spirit of winning that was ignited through previous successful TRM coaches such as Mack Wood, Larry Rampey, Frank Cotton, and Mike Sasser. Elements of each of the aforementioned successful coaches at TRM of whom Jamie either played or coached under were embedded within the core of the program that rose to new and sustained heights under the wise, energetic leadership of Coach Riggs.
What Jamie won’t share that I will, is ALL the “behind the scenes” work that he fully understood would be crucial in crafting a sustained program of winning. Coach Riggs recognized the process of getting to the top was an extremely difficult journey in itself…but staying at or near the top consistently year after year would be magnified as TRM would typically, throughout the regular season and playoffs, get their opponent’s top performance of that season in their quest to knock off perennial power T.R. Miller. His stellar program endured the test of time over the decades. Very obviously, Jamie loved the challenge, loved what he was doing and he loved his players.
I would mention that Jamie was relentless in his pursuit to be the best by constantly evaluating, analyzing, and modifying as needed the entire structure of the football program from top to bottom. He was a master at organizing ALL aspects of the program and not just his knowledge of the “X’s” and “O’s”, but the motivation, the marketing, the coaching of not only his players, but also his coaches. Although he was a “hands on” coach in all aspects of the program, he skillfully allowed his assistant coaches to maximize and utilize their respective strengths for the benefit of the overall program.
Beyond the countless hours he actually spent coaching on the practice field, in the weight room, or on the track, he spent just as many or more hours organizing, preparing, evaluating, studying books or film, and attending clinics. He not only was immersed in all the intricacies of the technical aspects of the game, but also understood how to relate to people. His enthusiastic skill to inspire, motivate and instill confidence within his players was remarkable. Most are probably aware that Coach Riggs could have easily advanced up the coaching career ladder to ascend to larger 6A-7A high schools or even the college ranks, but his heart for the TRM family, program, and community, was too strong for him to leave what he dearly loved.
Typically, the public would only see the end result of the 365 day process of developing a team as they performed during their games each fall. Even those parents having sons in the program probably didn’t realize the full magnitude of the time, energy and sacrifice Coach Riggs invested into each new team as the team matured through the annual process (off-season & summer workouts, pre-season, & in-season) as a steady “work in progress”. What made his assorted teams “Great” was a reflection of Coach Riggs. His teams always competed with class and sportsmanship, a poised “never say die” confident attitude of expecting to win, and played as a team.
In closing, I would strongly note what Coach Riggs accomplished would not have been possible without the constant support and sacrifice of his wife, Becky, who has been a critical factor in his achievements. Although Coach Riggs will very soon depart from the helm of the TRM program, the life skills entrenched within the program under him such as teamwork, discipline, work ethic, perseverance, toughness, responsibility, and dependability will continue to live on in the many lives that have been directly impacted through his teaching/coaching over the span of his career. The TRM family and Brewton community are grateful to Coach Jamie Riggs for his empowering young men on a path for success while establishing new heights of sustained winning for the TRM program leaving behind a legacy that will endure. Job well done!!