Following Athens Academy’s 57-12 win over Providence Christian Academy, Spartans’ defensive coordinator Marvin Barton was told he’d been a part of 350 wins as an assistant or head coach over his 49 years of coaching football.
It was a complete surprise to Barton. As he’d done for much of his career, he was taking his time to soak up Friday’s win as his mind began to venture into next Friday’s task of Hebron Christian.
“I’ve just been a part of a bunch of great programs, great coaches and great kids that worked hard,” Barton said. “Those things accumulate and you never think about them. I’ve always just learned to prepare for the next contest and keep going and get as far as you can go and look back and enjoy what your kids accomplished and then move on to the next season. It wasn’t like I wanted to be a part of 350 wins. I had no idea.”
Barton joined Don Chuboff’s coaching staff in 2014. He was kept on when current head coach Josh Alexander took over in 2015.
Barton’s experience and reputation have been big for Alexander who relatively is on the young side in experience, having only been a head coach for the last five years.
“We don’t win these game without him,” Alexander said. “It’s been an honor to be around him. He’s a mentor to me and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bounced ideas off him and learned from him. He’s a legend in the state of Georgia.”
His grandchildren, his daughter and his son-in-law immediately embraced Barton following the game. It’s how he wants it. Barton’s family is why he decided to come to the area.
After 42 years of coaching and marriage his wife sent out resumes to four schools in the area unbeknownst to Barton until he received a call from a coach he’d never spoken to about a position. There wasn’t a job offer, just a promise of a call when a spot opened up.
Confused, Barton mentioned the call to his wife who quickly confirmed that it was her beginning to lay the groundwork for the family to make the move to the area to join their children and grandchildren.
“She said you’re not moving fast enough to get me to Athens to my grandkids,” Barton said.
Barton has always had a healthy understanding and respect for the sacrifices the wife of a football coach makes. It was his turn to make a sacrifice.
“For 42 years it’s been about me,” Barton said. “You all have gone wherever I have gone and done everything I’ve asked you to do. You’ve never asked to leave, despite always changing locations. I said whether I have a job or not we’ll go.”
That was two years before Barton made the move to join the Spartans’ coaching staff. Barton was planning on staying with the coaching staff at Perry High School in 2014. Instead, the Bartons made the move to Athens like Barton had promised.
Barton’s wife suffered a ‘stroke-like’ seizure that revealed a brain tumor two weeks after the couple moved to the area.
Following the move, familiarity and family surrounded the Bartons. It made Mrs. Barton’s treatment and care taking much easier than if they’d remained in Perry, Ga.
“We left Perry two week earlier than we were supposed to,” Barton said. “I couldn’t understand it. It just happened. It was less than two weeks that she had the brain tumor and stroke here. She went to best hospital with the best brain surgery. Had we been in Perry, they would’ve sent her to the little local hospital and we wouldn’t have known anybody. Our kids knew every caretaker that took care of her, and we ended up with the best plan and the best brain surgeon in Athens in my opinion. The Lord orchestrated that and we didn’t even know it.”
As Barton’s wife’s health improved Barton got another call from an Athens area coach, this time there was a job offer. It was Chuboff asking Barton to come to a team short of coaches. It was an offer Barton couldn’t refuse.
Since he was young, sports are all Barton has known.
“They told me I couldn't be a president of a bank, so I could coach,” Barton said with a laugh. “Sports, growing up were my life. That’s what you had to do. You get home from school, you ride down to the baseball field and get a group of guys up and play baseball or meet Sunday afternoon after church and lunch and play tackle football in front of the local store. That’s all I did.”
Seeing how things were falling together changed Barton’s perspective on how important winning and losing in sports were.
Peace in the result and the lessons learned from whatever happens have made Barton into the less hostile coach there currently is on the sidelines. He now looks for the reason something happens instead of expressing the anger or elation that comes with a win or a loss.
“If there’s a loss, there’s a reason for it,” Barton said. “It’s never null or void. There’s a reason. It’s either to grow someone up or to allow something else to happen... We’ll go as far as we’ll go and that’s it. You can’t turn a switch and say ‘oh well, we should’ve scored 50 on them,’ well you didn’t. Facts are facts. You prepare your kids and sit on that edge when they get started and see how it turns out. I’m at complete peace about whatever happens as far as my life goes.”