By Rubin E. Grant
For the first time in 50 years, Buddy Anderson was somewhere other than the football field when high school practice officially began Aug. 2.
It was a peculiar feeling for the legendary Vestavia Hills coach.
“Of course it was real strange,” Anderson said. “But the one who is having the toughest time is my wife Linda. It’s all she knows. We said our ‘I dos’ and a month later I went to coach at Vestavia for 49 years. She’s not used to me not coaching.”
Anderson retired at the end of the 2020 season after 43 years as the Rebels’ head coach and six years as an assistant. He left as the winningest high school coach in state history with a 346-160 record and two state championships.
In his final season, the Rebels were 4-6 after starting 1-6, including two forfeits because of COVID 19, something Anderson contracted before the season.
He is getting along fine these days at the age of 71 as he adapts to his new normal.
“It’s an adjustment, but God has other plans for me,” Anderson said. “He’s not through with me yet.
“I’m still working with the school. I am working with the ninth grade school that used to be Pizitz. I am the dean of students and I work with the kids. Sometimes, I go tell stories to an elementary class. I am still figuring out my role, but I’m also retired. It’s not 8-to-5.”
Anderson always had his players uppermost in mind when he coached. Not seeing them regularly has been the biggest change.
“The bottom line is I miss the kids like crazy,” he said, “but a lot of the other stuff I don’t miss at all,” he added with a laugh.
“One of my grandsons is in the seventh grade at Pizitz and I went to pick him up after practice and it was so hot. I don’t miss that.”
Anderson has been a sounding board for Vestavia Hills’ new coach, Sean Calhoun, but he doesn’t expect to be showing up every Friday night when the Rebels play on the field named after him. That’s because Anderson has other plans.
“I told Sean, ‘Don’t be offended if I’m not there every game,’” Anderson said. “I have another grandson who is in his first year of playing on the seventh grade team over in Georgia, so I plan to go over and see him sometime.”
Anderson believes Calhoun will do fine as his successor, but he will have a challenging season competing in a region that includes two-time defending Class 7A champion Thompson as well as perennial powerhouse and longtime rival Hoover.
“I haven’t talked to Sean as much lately,” Anderson said. “He’s a good guy. They’re going to tee it up and play, but we’ll have to wait and see how well they do. The competition in Region 3 is brutal.”
Anderson probably won’t miss that, either.