By VAN HOLLAND
Justin Smith made a big announcement Thursday to the Tarboro Vikings baseball and girl's tennis teams when he meet individually with them. He told his players that he would not be returning next season as their coach. Smith resigned from both athletic positions and from his teaching position effective immediately. He will be taking a teaching position and the JV baseball job at his alma mater in Ohio.
"Tarboro has become a second home to me and my family," Smith said. "It is a town full of great people who care very much about their town and their kids. And It really shows."
Smith and his wife, Sara, went back to Ohio to visit and learned about the job openings. They sat down and weighted the options and thought long and hard about the transition. After talking it over, they decided now was the time to make the move. Smith will be teaching and coaching at Jefferson Area High School and his wife will be teaching art at an elementary school.
"We thought long and hard about whether to apply for the jobs in Ohio," Smith said. "We thought about it and knew that we had become comfortable in Tarboro and had raised our family here, but we also knew that the job openings don't come often in the position my wife teaches so we decided to take the jobs."
Smith and his wife decided to make the move, not just for the job openings, but also because they wanted their two children to be raised and to grow up around their grandparents and other family.
Smith told both teams that he would love to stay and continue to be their coach, but his family couldn't pass up this chance. He told them they all mean a lot to him and he has enjoyed being a part of their high school careers.
"I have enjoyed coaching each and everyone of you," Smith said to his players. "It has been fun coaching you guys and I know that you all will be successful next season no matter who your coach is."
Smith is leaving behind a program that is returning a core group of players. Tarboro will have three returning rising juniors and two rising seniors who contributed a lot to the program this past season.
"Whoever gets the position will inherit a good group of players," Smith said. "I know they will be a top notch team next season and they have the ability to go deep in the playoffs."
During his career as baseball coach, Smith carried the team to the playoffs both seasons and posted a 25-22 record. During his first season, they lost in the first round of the playoffs and finished the season 14-9. After losing the majority of his starters, Smith regrouped during his second season and finished 11-13. They made the playoffs for the second consecutive season and defeated a No. 1 seeded Bunn team in the first round and eventually lost in the second round.
His team won the Easter Classic this year and they were defeated in the championship game during his first season in a nail bitter.
Smith told his baseball players during the meeting that next season during the playoffs he will be back in Tarboro to watch them make their way through the playoffs and win a title, because he knows they have the ability to do it.
Smith also took on the roll as girl's tennis coach last season. He helped carry them to the playoffs. They were also the top team in the conference.
"I am really going to miss this town and all the great people in it," Smith said. "I will be back to visit as much as I can."
Smith feels comfortable leaving the people in Tarboro after eight years, because he knows that he is leaving a great group of people behind.
Tarboro Athletic Director Jamie Willoughby said she hates to lose such a good person on the staff at the school, not only in athletics, but also inside the building as a teacher.
"Justin has done a lot for Tarboro High," Willoughby said. "Anytime you lose someone who is valuable to the school they will certainly be missed."