Like most things in life, however, not everything always goes according to plan.
Leonard, the Three Rivers Conference and Robeson County Coach of the Year, resigned from his position as head coach at Fairmont Thursday, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
Leonard knew it was time to make a change when his nine-year old son came up to him following his team’s second-round playoff loss to Jordan-Matthews.
“When the season ended my son came up to me and said, ‘We’ll one good thing about football being over is you can see me more,’ and that’s when it hit home,” Leonard said. “Another example is my daughter, who is now in college, played tennis at Fairmont while I coached at South Robeson. I got to see one of her matches in her time there.”
Once the decision had been made with the administration at Fairmont, Leonard brought the entire team together to tell them the news. Many of the players responded with stunned silence.
“They understood,” he said. “I spent more time with them than I did my own family. But all coaches do.”
Leonard has been a coach for 26 years and a head coach for 13, including the last two at Fairmont. He will stay on as an assistant coach working with the players in the weight room until a new head coach is hired. The Robeson County school board will meet on Jan. 12 to make the decision official.
Robeson County athletics director Ronnie Chavis could not believe that Leonard resigned after a successful season.
“I was shocked,” Chavis said. “With the team that he’s got coming back and a good JV team, I though he had things going in the right direction.”
The sentiment was echoed by Fairmont Principal C. Jason Suggs.
“I was a little shocked because things are going in the right direction, but I understand his reasons.”
Although Leonard is walking away, he is leaving the door open to a possible return to coaching in the future.
“I won’t rule out the opportunity to coach again if the opportunity arises,” Leonard said, “but my son’s got to be a little older, where he can walk every step of the way with me before I would consider doing that again.”
Even though he is leaving, Leonard sees good things coming from the Golden Tornadoes in the future.
“We’ve got some good young talent here at Fairmont, we have a good administration, and some good coaches if all of them stay together.”