Lamar cross country 2016 file photo

Former Lamar cross country coach Jim Redgate, far right, is pictured with members of the Lamar cross country team that won a state championship in 2016. They are, from left, front row, Anne Preston McRae, Elizabeth Scott Boyd, Hannah Grace Hannington, Kailey Dowling and Katelynn Smith; middle row, Mary Griffin Jackson, Reece Shaffer, Maggie Grace Triplett, Sarah Pate Shirley, Emma Kate Stephenson, Ava Temple and coach Jim Redgate; back row, Sara Pierce Swift, Truett Bott, Mollie Degeneres, Sophie Hines and Emily Hannington.

For decades, Jim Redgate has been coaching in some capacity.

He began his coaching and teaching career at Northwest Junior High School before a three-year stint at Meridian High School. Following that, Redgate spent 28 years at Meridian Community College (Meridian Junior College when he started) before spending seven years at Lamar, first as a basketball coach then as a cross-country coach.

Now, Redgate will have to find another way to stay busy as he decided to retire from coaching in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At 81, Redgate is at an increased risk for health complications if he were to contract the coronavirus, so he felt it was best to take a step back from coaching.

“This is the first time in 61 years I’m unemployed,” Redgate said with a laugh. “I really enjoyed myself at Lamar, but until this thing is over, there’s just no way (I can coach).”

After attending college at Southern Mississippi, Northwest was Redgate's first teaching job, and he was there when current Lamar football coach and former MHS football coach Mac Barnes was a seventh grader. Redgate eventually made his way to MHS as head basketball coach and assistant football coach, and Barnes was his point guard for the three years he was there. That was during the early days of integration, and Redgate recalls instances where a white football player and Black football player would get into fights during practice leading up to a season opener against Columbus.

At Columbus, Redgate said the Wildcats came out on top, and some of the Columbus players started trying to fight the aforementioned Black player. 

“A fight breaks out on the sidelines, and the white kid I was talking about runs over to help the Black kid (he fought during practice),” Redgate recalled. “On the bus ride home, I told the coaches we didn’t have a problem anymore because sports brings people together.”

The late Dr. Bill Skaggs hired Redgate to teach health and coach basketball at Meridian Junior College following Redgate’s three years at MHS, where also coached golf during his tenure at the school. 

“Dr. Skaggs was very influential to me, and I’ll miss him,” Redgate said.

Redgate's most recent coaching tenure was at Lamar, where he was hired by then-head of school Shane Blanton, who is now the executive director for the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools. At first, Redgate was coaching the junior high and high school girls and boys basketball teams before transitioning to cross country, where he helped guide the school to a pair of state championships.

“It was a wonderful experience at Meridian High, at Lamar, at MCC and also Northwest Junior High,” Redgate said. “It seems like just yesterday (I was starting), but it’s been a long time. This would have been my 40th year coaching. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. My daughter has me as a shut-in; she doesn’t want me mingling.”

That’s the difficult part about the pandemic, Redgate said: Not being able to get out and do things like normal, including coaching.

“I’m in a position where I can’t hug my own children,” Redgate explained. “I’ll get up early and go get stuff I need at the store, and then my daughter brings me food, but me and other senior citizens can’t go socialize. It’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone. The pressure is really on for sports because everyone misses it so much.”

Once the pandemic is over, Redgate said he would consider coaching again if the opportunity arose.

“If the virus was completely gone… I don’t need the money, but I would be open to it,” Redgate said.

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