One of the greatest coaches in Carroll County High School sports history has moved on to the great ballgame in the sky.
Robin Whittington, who coached four sports at CCHS from 1969-1994, passed away Wednesday, August 17. His long coaching and teaching legacy at the Hillsville high school was recognized in January of this year as he was inducted into the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame.
A four-sport coach at Carroll, Whittington is estimated to have coached more than 1,000 games at the school, believed to be the most by any CCHS coach. Most known for his baseball coaching, Whittington coached JV baseball the first two years after CCHS opened in 1969 and served as a varsity baseball assistant until 1994. Alongside with the late, great Bill Worrell, the two built one of the state’s premier baseball programs.
“I think they were truly the dynamic duo. Coach Worrell was so well respected and handled players so well that Coach Whittington was such an excellent complement because Coach Worrell coached pitchers and was about as good with pitchers as anybody I had seen and Robin coached catchers and was masterful with catchers,” said Carroll County Athletic Director Darrin Matthews, who played three varsity seasons under the two Hall of Fame coaches. “Worrell worked with infielders and Whittington with outfielders and they were the ultimate compliment to each other. Coach Worrell was the master of making the right decision at the right time and putting the right person in the right place and at the right time. And Whittington was the ultimate complimentary coach for Coach Worrell.”
Matthews, a 1984 graduate of CCHS, said the two also had a bit of a good cop-bad cop thing going with Whittington being really good at chewing a player out when it was deemed necessary and Worrell patting the player on the back and building him back up. In particular, Whittington was especially tough on catchers – the position which was sort of his baby.
“I remember my junior year I had two passed balls in the first game against Patrick County and I didn’t touch a bat for the next three practices. All I did was block balls 50 at a time. I would get a drink of water and then go block 50 more,” Matthews said. “He took me and made me a catcher because I was a shortshop and had always played middle infield. I had to catch in an emergency situation once. He looked at me after the game and said, ‘Matthews, I don’t think you are a middle infielder anymore.’ He was an excellent catcher’s coach. There was no doubt about he knew exactly what he was doing.”
While those blocking drills were not fun, Matthews said of all the many coaches he’s been around in his long career in sports, Whittington was probably the best at coaching catchers because he could explain the position and its intricacies so well.
“He would get the most out of a catcher I have ever seen. If you were going to catch at Carroll County High School, you were going to block the ball, that was for sure,” Matthews said. “He used to tell me, ‘Matthews, I don’t care if you can hit. We have other people who can hit. Your job is to block the ball and throw runners out.’ He was a student of the game and he was a master of defenses. However we were pitching somebody, he would position the defense and nine times out 10 they would hit the ball to where the defense was positioned.”
Whittington’s influence is still extremely strong at Carroll County High School where not only is the athletic director one of his former catchers, so is the school’s head varsity baseball coach – Kevin DeHaven. An all-state catcher for Carroll and a 1993 graduate of CCHS, DeHaven said many of Whittington’s coaching techniques are still employed in the Cavalier program.
“He put me through the grind pretty much every day with blocking drills, teaching the hard work and learning to put in the time and effort. It helped pay off in the long run,” DeHaven said. “Basically everything I do with the catchers now is what he and coach (Rick) Nester taught me. I have added a few more recent things, but basically what he taught me is still being taught today.”
DeHaven said he was one of the fortunate Cavaliers that had the opportunity to play for both Coach Worrell and Coach Whittington.
“They were two of the best that kids could play for. There were great to work for, play for and they worked together so well,” DeHaven said. “Coach Whittington could remember things from years past and he would bring up stories and make it relevant to what he was talking about on that day. It is (a sad day for Carroll County). I mean you look at it, he probably has more wins from all the sports that he coached in or helped create than probably any coach that has been here.”
Aside from his storied baseball coaching career, Whittington also started the cross country team at CCHS in 1970 and led Carroll to a seventh-place finish in the state in just the second year of the program. Whittington also served as a JV football assistant coach from 1969-70 and 1976-79, including one undefeated team and one 1-loss squad. He also served as a varsity football assistant under Coach Worrell for one season.
Additionally, Whittington guided Carroll’s basketball teams, leading the JV basketball program from 1969-73 before taking over as the varsity coach from 1973-76. He also served coaching stints at other schools in the county, including the 9th grade basketball team at Woodlawn Intermediate School from 1991-93, 8th grade football at Woodlawn from 1991-93, and four years as a basketball and baseball coach at Sylvatus Junior High.