Coach Kerry Coombs, the Algebra Teacher?

KBonay's picture
March 15, 2013 at 4:25p

A while back, I made a comment about Coach Coombs being my Algebra teacher my freshman year in High School. Jason asked if I would be willing to share my experience and share a couple of stories, so I reached out to some of my old classmates for their best Coombs anecdotes. The stories they shared were vintage Coombs. Note: These experiences took place quite some time ago. Things were much different back then – social media, no camera phones and certainly no YouTube. Oh, and no Red Bull or Starbucks either!

There is no doubt that Kerry Coombs has made an instant impact at Ohio State both as a coach and as a recruiter. But what sort of impact did he make as a teacher? Well, most have mixed emotions. Yes, I said emotions, not a term you hear much in Algebra, but that is what Coombs brought to the classroom.

He was intense, as you can imagine. And loud, as if you couldn’t have guessed. But he was also very intimidating. I am not here to judge, just to give you what I recall from my days at Lakota High School.

Some of my female classmates openly admit to being "deathly afraid" of Coombs, and that to this day, they still have a fear of math. But that was Kerry’s approach, like it or not. Coach was very tough on athletes. The better you were, the harder he was on you.  If you excelled, he was quick to praise, but if you slacked, he would be all over you. And trust me, you did not want to get on his bad side.  One particular friend of mine ended up in Coombs' doghouse and never did redeem himself (although he didn’t try very hard, either). Coach made his days a living hell.

His classroom antics included throwing chalk-board erasers, again, mostly at athletes, using his favorite word, "stupid" and coming up with embarrassing anecdotes. One that I remember was when he asked a student to come to the chalkboard. Once there, he was instructed to draw a baseball diamond and explain what each base was. Coombs then approached the board, drew a brain in left field and said, "That’s where you are at. Left field! Now get in the game!"

Most of you have seen the infamous "sunshine" video from spring practice. I had a good laugh because I can’t even count how many times Coombs would call someone Sally. He would follow that by insisting that if you "Sit in the front row, you will not fail."

There is no question of the impressions Coombs left behind at Lakota. He was a master motivator – some would argue his approach bordered on harassment. But he got the job done. He wanted students to embrace math and to learn about how to apply what he was teaching to life and jis success rate was proof of his approach.

I love all the Red Bull references, so I thought you would like to know he came to school every day with three huge coffee-filled thermoses.  In fact, he made coffee so cool, we all soon began to drink it (many years before Starbucks had arrived in the Cincinnati area).

I will leave you with two quotes that were given to me by a classmate who is currently a track coach in the ACC. They were two of his favorite expressions during two-a-days:

"It will feel better once it stops hurting."


"A lot of dead people wish they were out here right now."

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Jelligrim's picture

Sounds like a teacher more people could use.

+1 HS
mitchjacobsen01's picture

One of our football coaches (a Honors History teacher), was very much like that. 
Great guy.  Used the socratic method and would put you on the spot at a moments notice.  To avoid embarrassment, you'd better come to class knowing what you read the night before and if you said, "I don't know." then he'd definitely be coming back to you later with harder questions.
Thanks for sharing your stories.  Coach Coombs sounds like the kind of teacher I would have enjoyed.

+1 HS
KBonay's picture

Yes, Coombs for sure used this sort of intimidation.  This was a freshman Algebra class.  If you failed to do your homework, you were sent, as a group, next door to the Senior Trig class and had to sing songs.  Trust me, the embarrassment did the job.  It only took a couple of times before everyone made sure they had their assignment completed. 

Hovenaut's picture

Nice story, thanks for sharing. Doesn't sound like he's everyone's cup of tea, but I'm glad he's involved with this football team.

+1 HS
popeurban's picture

I thought my pot of coffee a day was bad...

FitzBuck's picture

I would take a teacher like this over any that comes to work, checks the box and doesn't give a rat fart if the kids are learning. I had one like Coombs that I hated until I got older and realized he just wanted everyone to work hard and be respectful and productive adults.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+1 HS
Phillips.449's picture

Agreed!  The good ones are the ones you either don't want to let down because of respect or the ones you were afraid to let down.

+1 HS
harleymanjax's picture

I'm glad he wasn't my teacher, I usually slept in Algebra class lol

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

+1 HS
Jhesse17's picture

I probably wouldn't live to see my softmore year if this guy was my teacher haha

+1 HS
cinserious's picture

Its a shame the p.c. society we live in these days doesn't allow for more drill seargent-like teachers/coaches to lay into the lazy ass, unaccountable, entitled youth of today. One example of how backwards society has become is Urban Meyer having to apologize for slapping lavender jerseys on players who don't try hard and push themselves. I also can't believe that idiot reporter who acted like Coombs commited some terrible fau pax for how he gets his players into shape. Get a life and let coaches coach, teachers teach, and drill seargents do their thing.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

+1 HS
HighBallAce's picture

I would like to talk about my Bible teacher who at one time was a coach. He ended up being the athletic director during my time.
Our freshman year, our basketball team had really high hopes to do well in the state tournament. We were really good! Well one day in our freshman class, I had made the comment that we had come a long way sense the first day of school and that we were now men. Our teacher had heard me say this and he walked up to our conversation and he told me, "son, you have a very long way to go before your a man!"
I never really understood the implications of what he was trying to tell us. As the years passed and it got harder on us, I started to understand a little what he meant by that. Well 2 years after graduation, my dad had passed away deer hunting! Dad was one of those folks that didn't like to be in public because he had burns over most of his body from Vietnam. So going to church was out of the question. He had gone before the war but after he came back, he chose to stay very private.
Dad didn't know very many folks but he new my teacher from going to basketball games. So I asked my teacher if he wouldn't mind doing dad's funeral. Which of course he said he would be honored to do. I had to make a speech to honor my father and it was a really hard thing for me to do. After I had got done speaking, it was my teachers turn and before he got up on the podium, he leaned down to me and told me, "you did a fine young man!" Now that might not seem like much but he didn't exactly ever tell you that you were a "young man," unless he knew you deserved it!
He wasn't the kind of teacher that yelled at you. He did on occasion throw a marker or an eraser at you but it wasn't to hit you. More to get your attention but when you were in his class, he didn't have to yell at you! He'd just give you that look and you loved him so much that you knew you were not only letting him down but that you were letting yourself down!
He still teaches at the school and has threatened retirement many times. Many times I have gone back to him for talks about life and the things I've gone through. I've even told him to look around because there wasn't one student that walked through his class that he didn't touch! I asked him not to retire several times and he still hasn't! At first he kept saying he wanted to quit when his kids were done and now it's his grandkids! In truth, I think we were all his kids!
By the way, he was my Bible teacher for 4 years of my high school years and my friend for life!

+1 HS
Jelligrim's picture

My most respected teacher was my trig teacher.  I called her a few years ago to tell her the impact on my life and career (engineering).  She was very humble and and she asked where I went to college and after I told her The Ohio State University she replied with a jubilant "O-H" to which I responded "I-O" of course.  She said she had graduated with a mathematics degree.  I feel that it must have been divine intervention that I ended up in her class.

+1 HS
RBuck's picture

“A lot of dead people wish they were out here right now”

That's classic. I'll have to remember that one.

Long live the southend.

+1 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Coombs is the kind of old-school teacher/coach I appreciate.  The toughest teachers I had are the ones I appreciate most because they pushed me to be my best.

+1 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

Those quotes are freaking awesome. Haha. I love this guy

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+1 HS
tdible2132's picture

Coombs reminds me of my high school math teacher who was also a DB coach for the HS team. He was a good dude and a drill sergeant type lol

+1 HS
Lon_Paul's picture

Great post!  Not sure if I'd want Kerry as my Algebra teacher but there's no one I would rather have as our secondary coach. Go Bucks!

+1 HS
TheBadOwl's picture

Can someone make a wallpaper of the "A lot of dead people wish they were out here" quote, with coach Coombs and general Buckeye awesomeness?

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+1 HS
KBonay's picture

Saw this and couldn't help but think of Coach Coombs....

Scott K's picture

Ha, I'm an Algebra teacher and a coach....although I've coached a lot of girls teams, so calling one of them "Sally" would just elicit the response " Mr. K, my name is ...."  I've been known to be a yeller on the field...or watching the Buckeyes play (learned that from my grandfather :-)
Anyway, in a very Coombs-esque style, my academic and coaching mentor used this as the motto for many of his teams "Our sweat, our blood, their tears."   Admin made him stop using it after awhile, but the kids completely bought into it. 

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

+1 HS
KBonay's picture

^^^Love the avatar.  I wish 11w still had that t-shirt...sniff...

gnesq1's picture

This reminded me of one of my high school coaches...Coach J who is part of the football admin staff......if you ever meet him his story about former Massillon Coach Shepas always makes me laugh till I cry...

+1 HS