Bob Huelsman
Bob Huelsman

Bob Huelsman is a former high school teacher, coach and administrator, serving for more than three decades at Covington High School, in Miami County. In his 13 years as head basketball coach at Covington, Huelsman won 228 games and five times guided the Buccaneers to the regional round of the state tournament. Currently, he serves as the associate athletic director at Newton High School, and treasurer for the Southwest District Athletic Board. A former member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Control, Huelsman’s broad background in athletic administration has won the respect of his peers statewide.

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It’s true…it’s just grass, but it’s what you do with grass that makes the difference between a football field and a field of community pride and tradition.

It was June of 2005, and I was completing my last year of my 36 year tenure at Covington High School, many of those years as its athletic director.  I was asked to write a story for SportsTurf magazine about the maintenance, upkeep, and field painting on Covington’s Smith Field that I had been involved with for 30 years.

I accepted the challenge, and titled my article “A Labor of Love”.  It was actually my last official piece of business for the Covington Schools.

This article came to mind, as we close in on fall, and the same sorts of sights, smells, and sounds start to penetrate my brain again.  As the hot, humid days of summer arrive in the Midwest, thoughts turn to the upcoming football season.

Thirty-six years ago, as athletic director and assistant football coach, I searched for a simpler way to line the field rather than the standard crushed limestone routine.  A gentleman from a neighboring school district had developed a homemade paint liner mechanism.  We had him come over and line the field with paint one evening, and “a labor of love” was born!

We started with stenciled numbers, crawling around on our hands and knees, painting by hand while also slapping the mosquitoes that came out in droves under the lights.

Actually, using regular old paint brushes and gallon paint cans we brushed on the numbers, hash marks, yard marks, and even the wishbone “C” with the Buccaneer head in the middle.  This was work and we had to find a better way.

The Bucc Boosters along with the athletic department bought a gasoline operated paint liner and upgraded our paint quality, and for many years we worked with this solitary unit.  How we got by with only one is still a mystery.

The liner never really broke down where it caused us to miss lining for a game, a fact of dependability that in this day you don’t come to expect.  And, when you have only one liner, you never really need a lot of people.  One or two others besides myself were sufficient.
Over the years, we progressed to four liners, maintenance men to keep them running, human paint mixers, people to push the liners, people to spray the paint, a community and booster organization that came out to help (similar to the mosquitoes that greeted us that very first time).

Covington had a field that took a back-seat to no one!

During this time, Covington High School’s Smith Field won the very first Field of Excellence Award, a national award sponsored by Pioneer Manufacturing in Cleveland, a field marking paint specialist.

Beyond the obvious yard lines, hash marks, two-color yard line numerals and end zone letters that spelled out BUCCS (26 feet high), the wishbone “C” and Buccaneer head logo that graced the 50 yard line is the centerpiece of the field.

An impressive 50 feet high, spanning 20 yards between the 40’s, the Buccaneer head was laid out by hand every year and was the identity of Covington’s Smith Field and a point of community pride.

To have a good “painting”, you need a good canvas.  A good grass surface is important to the overall impact.  My daughters never truly believed me when I would tell them that, as I had them help me walk the field yard by yard and pull crab grass—an annual task.
More than one opponent has been known to kneel and feel the luxurious surface of Smith Field as they step foot on it for the first time…as have Covington seniors, in bidding a proud farewell after playing on it for their last time.

As the buzzards return like clockwork to Hinkley, Ohio, and the locusts start their annual drone in August, the men of Covington find their way to Smith Field to begin the ritual of painting for another football campaign.

And as the lights come on Friday nights and the Covington faithful arrive and leave with pride and satisfaction, appreciating the ambience and atmosphere of a facility that, win or lose, bespeaks the tradition of something more than just high school football.

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