Entering his 24th year serving Buford High School, Tony Wolfe has earned “legend” status in the hallways, the community, and coaching circles all around the state of Georgia. He is currently in his 13th season as the Head Softball Coach where he has won 10 state championships. He also was the cornerstone of the dugout for the Wolves baseball team where he served as head coach for 21 years winning two state championships. Finally, Coach Wolfe was a longtime assistant for Dexter Wood and Jess Simpson on the football staff where he was a part of three state championships on the gridiron. Coach Wolfe’s impact on this community is immeasurable, and to say he has had an illustrious career here at Buford would be an understatement.
Buford Athletics sat down with Coach Wolfe, whose main role now is serving Buford High School as Athletic Director, to see how the softball season has been going this year, and to see what his expectations are for the rest of the year for Buford Athletics.
Buford Athletics: You just wrapped up the 2019 regular season and it is now state tournament time for your softball team. How has the season been for you and the girls so far?
Coach Wolfe: You know, it was a really good year, but it was a hard year, because we played an unbelievable schedule. 27 games, every game, we played a team that’s in the state tournament this week. Every team we played is in the state playoffs. We also graduated six senior starters, so we had to rebuild a good bit of our position players. We’ve had a great senior class who has been everything that we would have hoped for them to be. We’ve had some ups and downs, but we are playing really well right now, and I am excited about where this team can go and what they can do. But, you know, when you play a hard schedule, and you have those ups and downs, and your used to success at a school that expects success, you lose a couple in a row it is hard to keep your kids pointed in the right direction, and to not think the sky is falling. But I have enjoyed it. It has been a great group to work with. We’ve got great coaches and great seniors, and it seems like it has come together at the right time.
Buford Athletics: You have won ten state championships as a softball coach, and a lot of people would argue that you don’t have anything else to prove as a coach especially as you take on the incredible responsibility of being Athletics Director at Buford. What drives you to continue to coach and keep pursuing championships?
Coach Wolfe: Well, it’s twofold. Part of hanging on to the coaching softball is the interacting with kids. As Athletic Director, I don’t get nearly enough of that. I miss the classroom. I don’t miss the grading papers and putting stuff into PowerSchool, but I do miss those 52 minutes each and every class period of getting to know kids and trying to make a positive impact on them. So coaching still gives me that. You know, I don’t know that you ever lose that competitiveness if you are born with a competitive side. I still want us to be great, and truthfully you can never have enough championships to be satisfied. You just never will. Whether it is two in a row or ten in a row the question is always whether you can do it again. Can you do it with a different group of kids? And truthfully, doing it at a higher classification is a challenge to us than maybe twelve years ago was when we were playing AA. I still love the competition.
I still love the practice part. I love the teaching part more than the competitive part truthfully. We used to talk about it as football coaches that Monday through Thursday is when it is fun when you really get to coach. Friday night comes and your just nervous about what is going to happen. I love the teaching and watching kids get better. You watch a player grow from freshman to senior or just grow from the start of the year to the end. I tell people all the time, I really enjoy cutting grass, because when I’m through I can see a finished product. I got something accomplished. A lot of times in coaching you get to see that finished product where you got a kid from point A to point B. And then as a team can you get from here to here, point A to point B. Can we get better? Can we sustain something? There are so many challenges as a coach, and it is hard to give up.
Building relationships with kids and with coaches is something that I love as well. When I gave up coaching baseball I missed the kids a lot, but I also missed the relationships with those coaches. And when I left football to coach softball, I probably missed the coaches every bit as much as I missed the competition. And you know, because there is a fraternity amongst coaches, there is just that daily grind. You are tired together, you’re excited together, you’re miserable together, and there are times where you spend more time with those people than you do your own family. So those are the two things that I try to hold on to.
Buford Athletics: How difficult is it to manage being the Athletic Director at a school like Buford, and coach softball at the same time?
Coach Wolfe: It is hard. It is truly really hard. As AD I look at my role as I am here primarily to serve and support our coaches and kids. Every day when I leave this office and go to the softball field, I feel disconnected to those coaches and players of those other sports. I’d love to tell you that they never need me for anything, but there are times when that is not the case. I don’t get to see much volleyball or cross country in the fall, but I get to be much more available to the coaches during basketball, wrestling and spring sports. But you know, I’m thankful for Coach Wood, because if he was not still with us I don’t think I could do both. He’s got such a wealth of knowledge and experience, and he is such an incredible person. He helps cover things for me when I am at Walnut Grove for a softball game, or people can call or text him if they have an issue. So it is hard, and I hope I am doing both well.
Buford Athletics: You’ve had both of your daughters come through the Buford City School System. What does Buford mean to you and your family?
Coach Wolfe: Buford is home. And Buford is a special place. I am so appreciative for what Buford as a community and especially as a school system did for my two girls. They are both achieving and experiencing success, because of the impact people here had on them. Certainly, it is about programs and it is about education, but really the biggest influences on my two daughters were the people who taught them and the people who coached them. And for those contributions from those people, I could never be thankful enough. My kids had great experiences here, because of the people they got to experience, and the opportunities they had as athletes and students. They’ve lived a blessed life. They had great coaches and great teachers. This community has treated our family so well, and taken us in and gave us so many opportunities that we’ve been really blessed.
Buford Athletics: Which former coach of yours made the biggest impact on you and why?
Coach Wolfe: Oh that is easy, Jim Carter. Jim Carter was my high school baseball coach my junior and senior year, and I’ve probably taken more of the things he did and the person he was and tried to implement them into my life and coaching. One of the things that stood out about him is he always believed in every player he ever coached. He believed in them more than they believed in themselves. He had so much confidence in you that you couldn’t help, but be confident in what you were doing. He had a tremendous work ethic. He had a tremendous attention to detail. He never left any stone unturned. It was fundamentals on steroids. It was all about the smallest little pieces to whatever you were doing.
We went on to win a state championship my senior year, and he helped me get a scholarship to play in college, and we have stayed connected even after all these years. He was even a groomsman in my wedding. That should tell you the kind of impact he had on me. So, I learned a lot of baseball from him, but I learned even more about how to care for kids. His wife would ride with us to every away game on the bus so it was a family affair for them, and I think that is important. When coaches wives get involved and get to know kids it just connects everyone and brings a different aspect to a program that you want to become a family, and I think sometimes those things are a big part of it.
Buford Athletics: Finally, what are your expectations for our athletics here at Buford as Athletic Director for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year?
Coach Wolfe: Well, certainly, we want to compete for championships as that is always the goal here. But for me, my expectations are always based on whether we are representing this school and this community in the right way. We value this school system and this community so much that when we go out on the road to play or whether it is a home game we always want to represent Buford with poise and class in everything we do. We want people to not only admire our athletic abilities and our coaching, but also admire the kind of young men and women we are helping raise through our athletic programs. Whether it is a note from another AD saying, “Coach your team’s locker room was spotless when they left” or “your fans were first class in how they treated us when we came over”, that is what is important to me. We take great pride in how our gate keepers treat visitors when they come in, because they are the first people they meet when they come to Buford. I just want us to be first class in all that we do. I want people to have an admiration for the discipline and the poise and class that we show as an athletic program and as fans.
If we take care of the little things, the intangibles like discipline, commitment and all of those kinds of things we can’t help but compete for championships. We’ve got tremendous leaders, we’ve got tremendous coaching staffs, and we always have great kids. One thing people don’t always understand is we have a great faculty that supports our kids. They may not be at every basketball game or every football game, but they are supporting from behind the scenes. The Charlee Yancey’s of the world are tremendous, and you may not see them at every game, but they certainly love these kids and will go out of their way to help our kids. I can’t say enough about the folks that work here.