Nicholl: Barta's patience most impressive in Smith Center's success

By: Conor Nicholl
December 7, 2012 - 10:36 AM

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Legendary Smith Center coach Roger Barta retired this fall after a 323-68 record in 34 years with the Redmen. I’ve talked to Barta dozens of times in the last five years, and, like everyone else, was always impressed with his calm demeanor and patience. My favorite Barta story came after the 2008 season, Barta’s last championship year. Barta was the Hays Daily News Coach of the Year while Redmen Colt Rogers, Kris Lehmann and Joe Osburn were Super 11 selections.

When I talked with the players, I asked them basically: What is your favorite coach story? The trio thought for a few seconds and then Rogers told me a story I’ll never forget. It became the center of my feature.  The anecdote, from Dec. 2008, is below.
Like all great coaches, I was amazed how Barta did things his own way – and connected so well to kids.


SMITH CENTER -- Junior Colt Rogers and senior Kris Lehmann were the last two players in the Smith Center locker room before the Redmen left for their Week 6 contest against Colby.

Head coach Roger Barta came in and asked the players to hurry and get on the bus. Rogers and Lehmann started to put equipment into their gym bags.

In their haste, the pair forgot their game jerseys. Barta allowed the two Redmen to borrow jerseys from injured teammates to play in a 40-0 victory versus Colby, and didn't address the problem until the next week at practice. He called Rogers and Lehmann, two of Smith Center's best players, into his office.

"He was calm, but had a tone of voice that said I am serious about this," Rogers said. "He just said, 'What should your punishment be?' "

Lehmann and Rogers looked at each other and said punishment is Barta's decision.

"We couldn't really think of anything," Rogers said. "But he said, all right, sometime this week, you come to me and you tell me what your punishment should be."

Barta never punished the kids. The moment, though, stayed with the players.

"He let it go," Rogers said.


In track season, Barta was angry after a runner scratched the 800 meters without telling the coaches. This fall, senior safety Marshall McCall had a concussion and had to wear a revolution helmet with more padding. One practice, McCall went back to his old helmet. Barta made him sit out the rest of practice.

"It takes a lot to get him mad," Rogers said. "But when you get him mad, you are scared for your life. You will definitely remember it, and you definitely won't ever do it again."

Since the Colby game, Rogers and Lehmann never have forgot their jerseys, nor the meeting in Barta's office.

"You try to work their mind a little bit," Barta said with a smile. "We talked about why they did that and said there could be some repercussions. You have to be held accountable. Don't worry about it, but just think about it. Don't worry. That usually gets them worrying a lot."

The players, both starters on offense and defense, understood the situation without the punishment - and trusted in Barta.

"He wants you to be the best," Lehmann said.

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