At LHJH, Goldsmith is shaping future Panthers

Liberty Hill Junior High School Athletic Coordinator Justin Goldsmith during a 2011 football practice. (www.ThunderstruckPhotos.com)

By Joseph Garcia

For Justin Goldsmith, coaching is not a hobby, it’s a way of life. And to the man in charge of shaping the future Liberty Hill High School Panthers, coaching the community’s youth means more than producing wins.

Goldsmith, 33, is the Athletic Coordinator for Liberty Hill Junior High School and a social studies teacher. He is in his seventh year of service to the school and says that coaching and teaching at the junior high level is something he takes much pride and joy in doing.

“For the longest time I thought I really wanted to be at the high school because the competition you can’t compare to anything else,” Goldsmith said. “But through the years  being at the junior high I have really come to appreciate being able to teach at this level.”

Coach Goldsmith, who resides in North Austin with his wife Tara and one-year-old son Jaxson, attended Merkel High School in West Texas. At the 3A school he enjoyed playing three sports. After high school, Goldsmith eventually landed at Texas A&M University where he earned his bachelor’s degree.

He said once his playing days were over he wanted to stay close to the action.

“I played football, basketball and ran track,” Goldsmith said. “I love sports and played all throughout junior high and high school. I thought I was going to get to play in college but when I didn’t, I wanted to stay in the coaching profession and I enjoyed teaching as well so I started off that way and never changed.”

So why did Goldsmith pursue teaching? It runs in the family, he said.

“My mom and her mother were both in education,” he explained. “My mom was a coach and eventually became a principal and my older sister also taught and coached a little bit. So, education is kind of in the family.”

The most satisfying part of Goldsmith’s job is working with a proverbial clean slate, he said.

“The kids are listening and actually taking in (coaching),” he said. “It’s a fresh start and I really enjoy teaching them the fundamentals of whether it is football, basketball or just being competitive. I really enjoy that part of it.”

Liberty Hill High School’s Athletic Director and head football coach Jerry Vance said the job Goldsmith does is of utmost importance to the entire system in place at Liberty Hill.

“What he does is an important job for us because all of our success at the high school is based on the athletes and the kind of training and attitude they get at the junior high,” said Vance. “So, obviously he is an important part of what we are doing.”

Goldsmith’s responsibilities include drawing up practice plans for both football and basketball, divvying up coaching duties, making sure referees are at the games, coordinating track meets and a whole lot of UIL paperwork. Not to mention actual coaching.

Communication and collaboration between Goldsmith and the high school coaches is key to the success of Liberty Hill athletics.

“During football season (Coach Vance and I) speak quite a bit,” Goldsmith said. “When it comes down to football, I speak with him about what his suggestion is to maybe stop a certain team or defense or how to run a certain play. So there is quite a bit of dialogue between Coach Vance and I and the other coaches during the football season.”

The LHJH Athletic Coordinator said when it comes down to football, they run what the varsity runs both offensively and defensively.

“We do our best to take the offensive game plan and playbook and do exactly what they say at its basic level,” he said. “We don’t try to deviate from that at all. We try to give (the kids) a good foundation so that they are ready to go play varsity football as soon as they leave the junior high.”

Coach Vance acknowledged they speak two or three times a week during football season. On Thursday evenings Vance will watch the junior high games with both enjoyment and an analytical eye.

“It’s very important that he understands where we are, what we’re doing and how we’re supposed to get this thing done,” Vance said. “If I hire you to coach that’s what I want you to do and that’s the reason I don’t go down there and try to interfere or anything like that. After the game, we may discuss something that might help later on down the road, but I think it’s important to coach yourself if that’s what you are hired to do.”

On Saturday mornings, the day after a varsity football game, Goldsmith and the other junior high coaches are up at the high school talking and watching game film with the high school coaches.

“It’s a great opportunity for us coaches to see the next week’s opponent at the varsity level,” Goldsmith explained. “So we get to take that information and use it at the junior high level. It’s a good thing for us.”

Aside from football, Goldsmith said the system is set up the same way for basketball. He takes the basics that Coach Barry Boren is teaching and applies it at the junior high level.

“We take what Coach Boren has and use his system and run with it,” he explained. “Ironically, my old varsity basketball coach from high school and Coach Boren knew each other and did some camps together.”

Goldsmith said the system he ran in high school is the same kind of system (run and gun and press the whole time) that Coach Boren runs at Liberty Hill.

“When I came in my first year, Barry wanted to sit down and talk x’s and o’s and I immediately knew what he was saying,” he said. “So it’s actually been a pretty easy transition to bring that to the junior high because that’s what I grew up playing in high school.”

For all the great coaching and strategizing he does, Goldsmith’s imprint on a personal level is sometimes what matters most in the lives of the junior high students. Sure he can teach a kid to bend his knees when shooting a free throw, but the mere fact that he is there for them means a whole lot more. Coach Vance knows it as well.

“Sometimes coaches have to fill in for parents…a lot of times coaches fill in as kind of a surrogate parent,” Vance explained. “Coaches are smart enough to be doing something else to make a whole lot more money. So for (Goldsmith and the rest of) them to do what they do and sacrifice their time and effort, I think it’s a special calling for someone to be a coach.”