Editor’s Note: This story was posted on www.lebanonsportsbuzz.com approximately one year ago. On Wednesday, Bill Rager passed away from complications of a heart attack.
BY JEFF FALK
One could say that they’re each a member of a special ‘coaching fraternity’. Or that when it comes to teaching the fundamentals of football to kids in Myerstown, they form the perfect double team.
Meet Bill and Roy Rager.
They’re brothers and co-head coaches of the Myerstown Panther midget football program. And for 39 years, they’ve been influencing developing adolescents through athletics, together.
“We’re preparing boys for the next step,” said Bill Rager. “That’s our main goal. We try to teach the basics, in their steps, in their blocking, to get them ready for junior high. We tell them ‘See what you’re hitting and hit what you’re seeing.’ The fundamental stuff.”
“Most of the time we agree,” said Roy Rager. “We hardly ever argue. We might have a disagreement here or there, but nothing to get excited about. Our assistants help us out pretty much. We depend on those young guys. I ask them what they think a lot.”
In the early 1970s under then head man Bruce Evans, Bill began coaching when his oldest son became a player. At the time, the Panthers were in need of a backfield coach and Bill asked Roy to join the staff.
And when Evans stepped aside, the Ragers decided to take on the head coaching responsibilities, jointly.
“We’ve been at it ever since,” said Bill, 69. “I really enjoyed it. We both did. I had two sons go through the program, and Ray had a son come through. I guess we just liked it. When you have good people around you, it just makes it easier.”
“It works out good,” said Roy, 64. “We call it ‘co-head coaches’. It started out as me being the head coach. But we’ve been together so long, we thought we might as well say we’re co-head coaches.
The Ragers shy away from the traditional ‘Good Coach, Bad Coach’ approach to football. Instead, they try to accentuate each other’s coaching strengths, and mask their weaknesses.
During the Ragers’ 39 years at the helm, Myerstown has claimed eight Lebanon Valley Midget Football League championships.
“Roy is the head coach, calling all the offensive plays,” said Bill. “I’m the mediator. I go around tapping butts. I also check out the bumps and stuff. He has great instincts.”
“It’s been fun,” said Roy. “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.”
Bill and Roy Rager enjoy a good working repoire with Elco’s head football coach, Mark Evans. But it is not the type of relationship that has them teaching Evans’ offensive and defensive schemes at a grass roots level.
“At the least, they (the kids) get the knowledge of the game,” said Roy. “We’re there to encourage them. We’re just getting them ready for the next level.
“We always tell them (the kids), it comes from the heart,” Roy continued. “It’s a rough sport. So we do encourage them. We don’t want them to quit and do nothing.”
“We get along real well,” said Bill of his brother. “We don’t argue. We don’t have problems. Roy calls the offense. He calls the plays and we all help him. It’s ‘What do you think?’. We make suggestions. Or ‘Let’s try this’.”
Bill and Roy came into the Myerstown program together, and it may very well be that they go out together. When they decide the time has arrived, it will be a mutual decision.
“Well, I don’t know,” said Bill Rager. “Maybe we’ll shoot for 40 years. Every time I get together with Roy I’ll ask him, ‘Do you want to give it another shot?’. And he’ll say, ‘Yeah, one more year.'”
“We’ll probably do it together,” said Roy Rager of the inevitable retirement. “Now and then we get together and talk about it. I said a couple of years ago, ‘Don’t you think we should give it up?’. But there’s always someone coming up we want to see play. It’s year-to-year. But I like it though.”