During his 50-year coaching career, Jim Lofton changed schools, game plans and teaching styles, but he never strayed from what he believes is the most important aspect of coaching: to care for those who play for you.
It is with that in mind that Lofton decided to write a book entitled “So you Think you Want to Coach,” which details stories, philosophies and strategies for any current or prospective coach.
“You don’t care about a few, you care about the whole team,” the 81-year-old Lofton said Wednesday at his home in Gainesville. “I never gave an award for the most valuable anything because no one is more important than anyone else.”
Those words come six years after Lofton officially stepped away from coaching football following a stint at Greater Atlanta Christian where he was a coach and consultant. Prior to GAC, Lofton spent seven years at North Hall, eight years at East Hall, four years at two Alabama high schools, 10 years at Jefferson and 10 years at North Fulton/Dykes High in Atlanta, where he began his coaching career in 1954.
At each stop he realized why he became a coach.
“It’s real ingrained in me how important it is to inspire, and we (as coaches) can do that,” he said. “Once the players were a part of the team, they were family.”
That philosophy was rooted from Lofton’s high school coach, Harry Seabold, who used to drive him and several other players home from practice because they did not have a ride.
“He gave us something other than football,” Lofton said.
So too did Lofton, who according to Gainesville High baseball coach Jeremy Kemp, is “an unbelievable person to play for.”
“Now that I’ve become a coach, to think back to all he did was unbelievable,” said Kemp, who played for Lofton at North Hall. “I can’t say enough, it was something that made me a better person.”
Born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., Lofton comes from a humble upbringing in which he lived through the depression, and was “too poor” to attend college. He enlisted in the Army’s Airborne division following high school, and it was there he got his opportunity to play college football at Auburn University.
“We were at peace, and I chose the Airborne because I knew athletics were important to them,” Lofton said. “One day, we were playing at Fort Benning and an Auburn recruiter was there, saw me play, and offered me a scholarship.”
While at Auburn, Lofton roomed with former University of Georgia coach and athletic director Vince Dooley, who shares Lofton’s opinion on the impact of coaches.
“Outside of my parents, my high school coach was the greatest influence in shaping my life,” Dooley wrote in the forward of Lofton’s book. “I am forever indebted to him for his positive influence.”
Thousands of former players can say the same about Lofton, including East Hall graduate Jeff Lott, who Lofton talks about in his book.
“Jeff was a big ole boy, but he was in trouble,” Lofton said. “I stood up for him, and by the time he graduated high school he earned a football scholarship to Auburn, was named All-SEC and now, he teaches Sunday school to kids in the projects.
“He’s just one example of what can happen if we as coaches take the opportunity to be concerned.”
Along with his coaching philosophy, Lofton’s book also provides insight on how to run a successful team and strategies that worked for him as a coach.
“This book came about from my experience in an important area of our culture,” Lofton said. “I felt an obligation to enlighten those in the profession and tell them about the opportunities to make a difference.”