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Adams still prowling Burton sideline after four decades

KEVIN MAYS, [email protected] • Aug 4, 2018 at 1:27 AM

NORTON — For over four decades, Jim Adams has been a constant figure on the sideline at Lawson-Fitchko Stadium.

As a player in the 1970s, as an assistant coach for 18 seasons and as a head coach at J.I. Burton since 1998, when the Raiders made the first of their five state championship game appearances, Adams has been a part of the football program at the small school nestled in the mountains of Southwest Virginia below the famed High Knob Recreation Area.

As he enters his 39th year as a Burton coach, Adams may not have seen it all, but he’s seen quite a bit on the football field.

“The game is night-and-day different,” Adams said of the sport of high school football, which once made heroes out of stocky, strong running backs who ran the ball down the heart of opponents’ defenses with “3 yards and a cloud of dust.”

Now, just like the college and professional games, high school football has turned into a finesse game with spread offenses that like to pick up yardage with the passing game or the jet sweep -— which Adams made commonplace at Burton over the years.

“It’s just night and day,” said Adams. “It’s just a generational thing.

“I think kids today, as a rule, are bigger, faster and stronger. I’m not sure if they’re as tough as they may have been three or four decades ago.

“But the game sure has changed and if you don’t change with it you can get lost quick.”


Adams said science has opened the eyes of a lot of coaches by increasing the understanding of the way the human body works.

Many practices of the past, such as giving players salt pills instead of water breaks, have long since gone by the wayside. But once upon a time, that was thought to be the right thing to do he said.

“When I first started coaching, if you gave them water it was a sign of weakness,” Adams noted. “We thought we were doing the right thing.”

And one technological innovation has been a huge time-saver for coaches, according to Adams.

“The Hudl program has saved coaches endless hours of work and preparation. There are so many things that I spent a whole weekend doing that are now generated through analytics on Hudl and it’s just a matter of going and printing it out,” he said.


Another big change over four decades is the way coaches discipline players. Many methods from years ago are not acceptable these days, not even on the gridiron.

“You’re walking on eggshells in today’s society,” Adams said. “It is what it is.”

As far as Burton and discipline, Adams is pleased with the hiring of Dr. Mike Goforth, the former athletic director at Union, as Burton’s new principal.

“I think we’re getting ready to straighten some things out,” Adams said. “I think with Dr. Goforth we’re going to make sure that the kids are held accountable for their actions. And in my opinion, that’s the most important thing we can do as educators.”


At 58, Adams is battling a serious infection in his leg from an injury he suffered when hit by a baseball during a practice in early April, as well as vertigo and some other health issues.

But when game night rolls around on Friday nights in the fall, Adams still gets the same charge that he’s been having for better than four decades.

That’s why he’s still there on the sideline, under the lights every Friday night.

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