An end of an era was reached this fall when Bob Ball decided to step down as Fredonia's head football coach after the Hillbillies loss to Grover Cleveland in the Section 6 Class C championship game.
"The time commitment," Ball said of the primary reason he stepped down as head coach. "My kids are getting older, they're starting to get into sports and I'm missing so much of their stuff. I know their first year of Midget League, they had seven games and I think I made two of them, because I was scouting most Saturdays."
Ball, who took over the team 13 years ago finished his career with the Hillbillies at 68-48, leaving after a six-year run that saw his teams win two league titles (Class B South, 2007; Class C North, 2011), a Section 6 Class C title (2010), a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Far West Regional title (2010) and a pair of Sectional runner-ups (Class B, 2008; Class C 2012).
Pictured is Fredonia Varsity Football Coach Bob Ball during the 2012 season. Ball stepped down as the Hillbillies’ head coach after 13 seasons.
"I told teams all along, that it's not the Sectional championship, it's the journey along the way," Ball said of one of the things he'll remember most. "Even the seasons when we finished 1-7 (2004, '05), the practices were fun and even though it didn't pay off with wins and losses that year, we had good times with the kids and good memories. When you see kids come back to our games and visit the school and things like that, it's those times that I enjoyed most as a coach. Not wins and losses."
The decision to step down was something that has weighed on his mind for quite some time, and he noted that last spring, he made that decision final.
"I thought it over and it wasn't a hasty decision," Ball said. "I actually considered it before (the 2011 season). One of my assistant coaches was retiring this year, so I decided to coach with him in his last year.
"I think there's going to be a lot of really good football coaches applying for the job," Ball continued. "I don't think they're going to be in too bad of shape the next few years, but I'm looking forward to being a part of my kids' lives a little bit more with their sports."
Ball, who ultimately came to the decision on his own, had the full support of his wife, Julie.
"She supported me either way," Ball said. "She knows how it weighs on me missing certain things of (the children) and how I feel about it. She also knows that the time I put into football, that I do enjoy coaching it. She said it was my decision, and she supported me in whatever I did. She didn't want me to regret (the decision) either way, whether I continued to coach and missed some things of our kids, or got out of coaching."
With the success the Hillbillies have had in the playoffs over the last six years, Ball seemed just as pleased with the fact that his teams never lost to their arch-rivals, the Dunkirk Marauders, going 13-0.
"People say that our Sectional championship was nice," Ball said, "but one of my fondest memories was (2004) when we beat (Dunkirk), 26-18, because I felt that they were a pretty loaded team and they had some pretty talented football players. We had great kids that year, but we had a tough time as far as talent went that year. I think it told a lot about those kids that they stuck around and didn't quit and didn't fall out and were willing to put in the work to put that offense in that week."
One thing Ball wasn't going to do was leave Fredonia's football program in a weakened state.
"I would definitely not have walked away from (Fredonia's varsity football program), if it wasn't in good shape," Ball said. "I was really going to walk away before last year, but I didn't like ending it with a loss to Southwestern in overtime. I think for the next several years, down to even our Midget League teams, I think the program is in pretty good shape right now and that it was a good time to step away if I was going to.
"The kids are still going to have to work hard," Ball continued. "But I definitely think the pieces are in place, but they can't have success if they're not willing to pay the price. I think there are enough good coaches around, whether inside or outside of the school, that I don't think they're going to have a hard time finding someone to do the job and put the time in to give the honest effort the kids deserve."
As for the next head coach, Ball has some advice to share.
"Definitely have thick skin when it comes to the crowd," Ball said of any advice he has for the next coach of the Hillbillies. "You've got to put everything into perspective and there definitely times (coaching) can bring you down to earth and keep you humble. But whoever it is, they should run their system and just do what they do as a coach. And a couple of guys I know who are interested have a good idea of how they would run (the program) if they got it.
"Put the time in," Ball added. "I don't think anyone can ever say that I didn't put the time in to give our teams the best chance to win. I would definitely say to the coach that if they prepare these kids to play, these kids will do it for them, just like they have for me."
Aside from wanting the opportunity to spend more time with his family, another reason Ball noted he was giving up coaching, was the fact that he would like the opportunity to further his career by going back to school to earn an administrative degree.
"I am very happy with my teaching job right now," Ball said. "I enjoy doing what I do at the middle school level and I enjoy Fredonia. But I would just like to keep my options open and I think pursuing an administrative degree certainly would give me options for the future as I get older."
But the main reason he chose to give up coaching football was the time it was taking away from his family, especially his sons, David, 10, and Michael, 7.
"I really don't even want to coach them at this point," Ball said. "I want to sit up in the stands as a parent and watch them and root for the team and step back from (coaching). I have real no inspiration to coach at any level next year. I just want to sit back and watch them play and watch them grow up."