An era recently ended in Portsmouth High School athletics, as longtime track coach in the Portsmouth City School District, Chuck Burke, officially retired as the school’s track coach. The conclusion of the Burke era saw an end of 35 years of service by Burke to the school district, which saw him take the helm at both Portsmouth and East High School, when East was still a part of the Portsmouth City School District.
Burke decided it was time to retire during the 2016 season. He had previously retired from teaching a few years earlier, after spending over 30 years in the classroom for Portsmouth City Schools.
After retiring from teaching, Burke became a teacher evaluator for the school district while retaining his position as track coach.
“It got to the point I wasn’t in the school building anymore,” Burke said. “It’s hard to coach when you’re not around the kids all the time like that, at least not to the extent which I feel comfortable with coaching. I think you need to have more contact with them than I was able to.”
While Burke was not around his student-athletes as much as he would like to be, he also realized the time was right to pass the coaching responsibilities to a new individual.
“It was time to just move on and let somebody else take over the reigns,” Burke said. “It wasn’t anything that happened or that I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s just I’m getting older and I felt it was time to just let it go and let somebody else step in.”
After more than three decades of coaching, Burke has amassed a great number of fond memories of his time working with the school district’s student-athletes.
“The main thing for me was just helping kids do the best they could do,” Burke said. “In track, it’s one of those things where many of those kids are just doing it for the first time, especially at the high school level.”
Many of Burke’s track team members had no idea what they were capable of in the sport when they first joined his teams, according to the recently retired coach.
“Just having a hand in seeing them improve and giving them whatever expertise I had, as far as getting them in shape and techniques and just giving them an opportunity, that’s the main thing, giving the kids an opportunity to do what they’re able to do,” Burke said. “Sometimes they’re surprised at what they’re able to do and for me that’s the main thing for me.”
As a coach, Burke said some of his best memories were watching his student-athletes advance on to district, regional and state meets, as they competed against the best track athletes in the state.
“I’ve been blessed to have some very good kids and some very talented kids,” Burke said. “Track is hard work, because everything you do is measured. When things aren’t going well, you can’t say that guy was playing good defense on me or somebody dropped a pass. It’s pretty much all you out there. It’s a tough sport to participate in, as well as coach.”
Burke also said he was blessed to have great assistant coaches during his long career at Portsmouth.
“I’ve had great assistants throughout my career,” Burke said. “They have helped me out so much. I was very blessed.”
Burke already missed his interactions with the students before he decided to retire, and not being around them as much will be one of the major things he will miss about being Portsmouth’s track coach.
“Knowing that I’m working with the kids and seeing them improve and having them count on me to do things and just having that camaraderie aspect, just knowing you’re doing something to help these kids, I’m going to miss that,” Burke said. “I’m an old competitor myself and I can’t do those things anymore, so it’s good to be able to pass those along.”
Despite officially retiring, Burke said he will still be available to help Portsmouth’s track program when he can.
“I don’t mind coming back and helping out some,” Burke said. “Running a track meet is a lot of work. It takes a lot of helpers. It takes a lot of preparation. I’ve already told them I’d be glad to help them out.
“I’m not burnt out, it’s just older guys don’t have the energy they used to, but still the biggest thing for me was not being in contact with the kids as much. I love track and I enjoy seeing the kids achieve.”
Burke won’t be a typical retiree, as he still plans to stay busy. He will continue to work with the ESC in New Boston, helping at-risk students as well as substituting. He is also a moderator for the county quiz bowl competition.
“I’m working as much as I want to really,” Burke said. “Even though I’m at the age that I can retire, I’m still not to the point that I want to walk away and not do anything. I get bored rather quickly.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.