“When I got here as a 22-year-old kid who just graduated from Butler I thought I knew it all,” said Barron. “Then you look at who was here when I got here – Bill Nixon, Jack Edison, Mary Beth Hunter, Bob Read (all members of their respective Hall of Fame’s), Alan Shockney, Russ Teall, Tom Isenbarger, Tom Condon. Every one of them helped me become the teacher and the coach I am today. They were happy to do it, and I am thankful that they did.”
“Coaching is teaching and every one of them was a great teacher too,” said Barron. “Any good coach is all-in in the classroom too.”
“Getting a coaching or teaching job at Plymouth was an honorable position, it was where you wanted to be,” said Barron. “I remember how proud I was to be a part of this, being a part of the coaching staffs I was on and being able to soak all that up. I was one of those guys that know they are going to be a head coach someday. I knew I wanted that.”
“I learned that there is a ‘Plymouth’ way to do things,” he said. “There is the wrong way and the right way to do things. It’s an expectation in the classroom on the field and in the community.”
“I always knew I was going to be a football coach,” said Barron. “It’s my love. It’s just a game that fits my personality.”
Barron spent 14 years as an assistant on Tom Condon’s staff and while he learned a lot at that time, being a head coach is an entirely different animal.
“I remember having a conversation with Jack Edison just in the hallway between classes,” he said. “I just asked him when you know you’re ready to be a head coach. He just laughed and said ‘You never know when you are ready for that. Nothing you’ve been through as an assistant prepares you for what being a head coach is like.'”
In 2003 Condon decided that he was ready to retire. When the 2004 season started the Rockies had a new head coach for the first time in 15 years.
“It was really a pretty easy transition,” said Barron. “Tom (Condon) was great about allowing me to run the offense and then switching me to the defense so I would have that experience. My coaching philosophy came from Tom. My assistants were the same. There really wasn’t a whole lot of question about how we were going to do things.”
It’s those assistants over the years that Barron also gives credit for the Plymouth success on the field. Currently, six of Barron’s assistants played football during his time on the sideline at Plymouth and one of his two others (Gene Skirvin) has his own head coaching experience.
“If you are going to be successful at anything you have to surround yourself with good people,” said Barron. “These guys are more than good coaches and teachers, they’re good fathers and husbands and they care about kids.”
“It’s a unique staff,” he said. “It’s got a mix of young guys and guys who have been through it. The majority of guys played here so they know what it means to be an athlete here. We’ve had success because we have a great group of assistants.”
“I’ve always encouraged them to be the ‘head coach’ of their position,” said Barron. “They’ve responded well to that.”
Barron has also taken a page from the past.
“We have one state championship team and I’ve tried to get to know all the guys from that 1977 team that I can,” he said. “One thing that I’ve learned is that the best teams have a particular culture. Teams are best when you are playing with your best friends on the same team, guys that are willing to sacrifice and they don’t care who gets the credit as long as you win. It’s never about one guy.”
“Rockie football is bigger than any one of us,” he said. “It’s a culture where everybody is on the same page. You have to build that from the ground up.”
After 30 years at Plymouth, 16 years as the head coach and 124 wins what does Barron see for the future?
“Everybody asks me when I’m going to retire,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m pretty sure that I won’t be going for another 16 years, that I can say for sure.”
“Plymouth kids are tough kids. They always have been. They are tough and they are coachable and if you have that you always have a chance to win on Friday night,” said Barron. “I am very fortunate that I’ve had the chance to coach both of my sons. That is a special thing. I’m a very competitive guy. I still love to teach. I believe that you have to bring energy to everything you do and I suppose if there comes a day when I’m not able to do that it might be time to stop. There will come a time when I’m just not the guy for this job. Hopefully, I’ll be the one that gets to make that decision.”