After a Hall of Fame coaching career in the high school ranks in which his teams won over 600 games and then, after coming back to coach at the junior high level for four seasons, what does a man with nothing left to prove do for an encore?
Well, if you’re Gary Shaffer, now 74 years young, you return to coaching once again, this time as the head basketball coach at the Fayette Christian School.
Shaffer held a camp this week at FCS, attended by a group of young men who probably have very little inkling as to the degree to which their new coach is, in fact, a legend.
“The young man who was coaching here went into the Air Force,” Shaffer said. “So, we didn’t have a coach. I was asked if I would consider it and, it was a tough decision. I enjoy retirement, you know, doing what you want when you want.
“I was available and they needed some help,” Shaffer said. “I’m on the school board here at Fayette Christian. This is the church that I attend, so, I’ve been a part of it for a long time. I’ve come in at different times to try and help the coaches out with different drills and new ideas.
“Like I said, we just didn’t have a coach and I was available and I’m just trying to help out,” Shaffer said.
“Basketball is basketball,” Shaffer said. “It’s not going to change. We don’t have the numbers that we had in the public school. We made the decision with the school board that I would do this. I wanted to have a camp for the kids. I know most of them. I ran a camp for them last year, because the coach was in New York. So, I’m familiar with the program and with the kids. It was late in doing this. A lot of the families are on vacation, so about half the kids aren’t here.
“I talked it over with my wife (Jean),” Shaffer said. “Of course, she’s always been a big fan of basketball and she’s supported me all these many years. She’ll be involved in one way or another, too.
“We are not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association,” Shaffer said. “We are in a league, the BCSO (Buckeye Christian School Organization). We’ll play teams from Columbus, Milford, up by Lima, so, there’s a little more travel than at Washington.”
Getting at the heart of the matter, Shaffer spoke about what can come from playing the sport of basketball.
“To me, basketball is a very simple sport that can be made very complicated,” Shaffer said. “But, it can teach you a lot about yourself and a lot about life; it’s a lot of values.
“One of the coaches I idolized for years, John Wooden (UCLA), had the pyramid of success with all of these different characteristics and qualities you need to be successful in the game of basketball, but also to be successful in life,” Shaffer said. “I think (former Blue Lion boys basketball coach Shannon) Bartruff instilled a lot of those things in his players and I instilled that when he played back in the 90’s.
“To me, (basketball is a way) to teach the young men a lot of the things that they’re going to need in their future lives, the job or profession they get involved in,” Shaffer said. “Just in everyday situations, things that just help you as a person. That’s our goal. We’re using basketball to accomplish that.
“Hopefully, things will go well and they’ll adjust to me quickly,” Shaffer said. “I’m sure I’m a little different as far as my expectations, than they are used to. But, they’ve done well this week.”
As many hundreds of players have in the past, the players for the Fayette Christian School Crusaders are bound to learn a lot, and be better people, for just playing for, and getting to know, Coach Shaffer.