Back in August, Ray Pohlman began his 34th school year as an educator. It was the first fall in more than 40 years that coaching or playing football was not part of his routine. Pohlman, 55, has worked the last 33 years at Perrysburg High School, the last eight as the Yellow Jackets’ athletic director. A 1974 Macomber graduate, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Bluffton College in 1978. He played football at both levels and later earned a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University. Pohlman served as an assistant coach, first at Defiance, and then from 1979-1995 and 2001-10 at Perrysburg. He was the Jackets’ head football coach from 1996-2000. Pohlman and wife Kim have three grown children.
What stands out from your time growing up?
Some of my fondest memories growing up in South Toledo would be playing football in the S.T.A.R.S league and having my father as one of my football coaches. We played on the football field at the Lucus County Rec Center. I had a very positive experience playing for Burroughs Elementary against rival teams like Arlington and Jones Junior High.
What was your most memorable sports-related experience while at Macomber?
We were dismissed from last period class early so we could get ready for practice. The reason for this was our practice field was at the city park located off the Anthony Wayne Trail. We had to put on our equipment and get on the bus that took us to practice. An assistant football coach drove the bus, which was not in the best shape. A couple times it would not start and we ran the back roads in our pads and cleats on to get to the city park.
Who influenced you in choosing your career path?
I have a wonderful mom and dad who encouraged me and supported me in the activities I was involved in. He was patient with me when I needed assistance. Bob Momsen, my Macomber football coach, and Bart Schroeder, a successful basketball coach, were a tremendous influence on me.
What was special, academically or athletically, about your time at Bluffton College?
Even at that level, the game was faster and the players hit harder. The team members were primarily from Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. As with any college team, friendships were developed that allowed me at that time to visit other areas away from Toledo and become more diversified. Academically, hands down, I received the best instruction that allowed me to get my teaching degree in mathematics.
You have been attached to Perrysburg High School for 33 years. Can you summarize your experience there?
I have been blessed to be able to stay in the same district this long. My first two years (1979-81), the football and basketball teams were undefeated in regular season games. That’s 20-0 for football and 40-0 for basketball. I thought, wow, I came to the right place. As the years went on, I realized that was not the norm. Although the city and school district has increased in size, what has not changed is the priority the community places on the school’s academic and extracurricular programs.
Football has been a big part of your life for 40 years. What is it about the game that sparked and kept your interest so long?
I had the opportunity to work with a successful high school head coach, Chuck Pratt. He was Perrysburg’s coach for 23 years. He was very detailed in practice plans, worked the players very hard, and taught me so much about the way to treat kids fairly. Coaching with many of the assistant coaches over the years has helped me develop many lifelong friendships.
You’re in your fifth decade working with teenagers. How have kids changed since you started in the late 1970s?
One of the biggest changes is the knowledge the kids bring to the classroom and the athletic field. Technology has all of us only one click away from getting information. Computer football games, ESPN analysts, and the ability coaches have today to break down film with the players have improved the players’ football knowledge. With respect to the social pressure, it was there in the 70s, but it is more extreme today with all the social networking that exists.
You began the annual Regional High School all-star football game in 1991. Explain what that experience has meant to you?
I attended the Fostoria all-star game with a Perrysburg booster officer, Dan Arquette. That game gave us the idea that we could start an all-star game in the Toledo area. Perrysburg has the practice fields to host the teams, and our location is easy to get to. Over 40 schools are represented in the game. Teams and players that were rivals during the season get a chance to meet and play on the same team.
A man who teaches, coaches, and becomes an athletic director assumes a big time commitment away from his family. How has your family adapted to this reality?
My wife, Kim, has been very supportive. She has helped me make some wise decisions as we talk about situations that I have been faced with. Maybe it’s the offensive play called at a game, or an idea that I had to motivate a team, or my bad attitude. She keeps me on track and has been my barometer. I have been very grateful for that. My three children all attended the Perrysburg school district and have also been supportive.
There has been a major overhaul in recent years in the structure of leagues in this area. What is your take on that, and do you see further change on the horizon?
There are several reasons leagues realign. Competitiveness, travel distance, and student enrollment are a few considerations. Another consideration is trying to find non-league games in the area. What has taken place in the city from the competitive viewpoint will, in my opinion, be best for both the newly formed TRAC and the City League. The Northern Lakes League has added Napoleon, but currently there is no discussion to make any changes in the near future.