GREENVILLE – Former Greenville and Arcanum head football coach Larry Masters is back in town preparing for the 2014 Matt Light All Conference Football Camp at Harmon Field.
Now living in Florida, Masters returns each year to continue the camp he founded 21 years ago for boys and girls wanting to hone their knowledge and skills of football. Masters took time for a visit with Greenville Superintendent Doug Fries and Greenville school board member Fred Matix.
In the 1980–90s, Matix was Greenville athletics director while Masters was head football coach and Fries was head basketball and baseball coach as well as coaching track.
“We were all together,” Fries said. “I coached 13 years from ’86 through ’99.”
“I was coaching 11 years as an assistant and head football coach,” Masters said.
“Larry and I worked closely,” Fries said. “He was football and I was head basketball. I had JV boys baseball for six years and varsity baseball six of the years and track. The important thing for Larry and I we worked very well together, not only the camaraderie of using some of the same kids … we made that work. We found a way to work conditioning programs so that both programs could utilize some of the same kids.”
“And we were neighbors,” Masters added.
“Yes, we were neighbors, and we were good friends,” Fries continued. “It was a good example of camaraderie and how you have to work together. I think Mr. Matix played a critical part. He tried to size his staffs up. People that would work together and saw the importance of us using the same kids, working facilities and weight rooms and different things. He had a plan in mind as an athletic director of where he was going with it … get people to work together.”
“They were both great head coaches,” Matix said. “They wasn’t just concerned about their program at the varsity level; they were instrumental in the elementary and junior high programs. They ran very efficient camps for people to learn the very basic fundamentals. They threw in their junior high staffs and had them feel like they were a part of it. I trusted them. They did a heck of a job.”
“I always found Greenville had very supportive parents, very supportive community, and I thought they really stuck to the work ethic that I wanted,” Fries said. “I was always pleased with the effort I got from the kids. I was very fortunate to have very supportive families with the committed kids.”
“Part of what was instrumental in me coming back, I always thought there was good people who worked hard for a good common goal,” Fries said.
“We’ve had good solid people, and I think it’s because of their parents.” Matix said. “We used to fill that stadium with coach Masters. What these fellas expected out of players. I had confidence in the coaches that they weren’t going to overwork the players.”
“We had a weight program going on all the time,” Masters said. “We had some restraints from the state when you had contact and practice. They (sports) are all year around, baseball, soccer, basketball, football, and you have AAU.”
Masters shared a statement by Ed Johnson about weight lifting.
“Being in a weight program year around is not going to guarantee you’re going to win, but I’ll guarantee you won’t win if you don’t have one.
“And that is the way it is with a lot of things,” Masters added.
“Every day that I have been in administration in the past 15 years I have had more and more respect for how Mr. Matix did things as athletic director and had control of things,” Fries said. “There is a reason that you keep a close eye on finances, and there is a reason you keep a close eye on discipline and commitment. I’ve appreciated it more and more every day.”
“When you are in the coaching business, our wives are a big part of this,” Masters said. “If you don’t have their support, you could be out on the street because you’re not doing it for the money, you’re doing it for the love of the game.”
After coaching football 11 years at Greenville, Masters took the head football coaching job at Arcanum for the following five years.
“I enjoyed that and from there I got out of head coaching responsibilities,” Masters said. “I always loved to coach defense. That was my favorite.
“Ed Domsitz of Northmont asked me if I would come down there so I went down with him for four years.
“When he left and went to Alter he wanted me to go with him, and I said I can’t make that drive, that’s too far,” Masters said. “One Sunday my wife and I got in the car and timed it, and the mileage from North School where I was teaching and drove to Alter. It was an hour and 10 minutes, and I didn’t really want to give it up so I stopped on the way back from Alter at his house, he lived down on 49, I said I think I changed my mind. We’ll try it so I spent 10 years down there and loved it.”
Masters now lives in Florida where his daughter, son-in-law and 6-year old grandson live and works his way back north each summer to continue the football camp he started 21 years ago.
“I started it in 1994 in Arcanum when I was down there,” Masters explained. “I did it one year there, and then I brought it up her to the YMCA. Then we went to the North Park, and now we are out at the stadium.
“I called it the All Conference Football Camp when I first started it,” Masters said. “Matt Light was drafted in 2001, and I asked him to come on board.”
“When he came on and wanted to get involved, I said, let’s just call it the Matt Light Football Camp, and he said no just leave it at the All Conference Football Camp,” Masters said. “He didn’t want to put his name on it, and I told him, these young kids look up to you and admire you. They want to say they have been to the Matt Light football camp. They don’t know who Larry Masters is.
“I talked to him and said put your name on it someplace,” Masters said. “We’ll call it the Matt Light All Conference Football Camp. He said OK, and that is what we officially call it now, but everybody refers to it as the Matt Light Football Camp.”
“Matt Light is a great example,” Matix said. “He went the route and really had a very good route, winning the playoffs and winning NFL championships. That doesn’t happen but to very, very few people and he has given back to the community, which is wonderful.”
“A couple years later, he (Light) wanted to get more involved financially,” Masters said. “Back then when he was still playing it was hard this is the time of year. They have their mini camps, and that kept him from coming. Now that he is retired he is there all day, every day. He’s involved. He’s out there coaching.
“When I first started the camp it was high school, and I had all the county coaches involved and we charged,” Masters said. “I had pro players come in, paid them, and that wasn’t cheap.
“A few years later the state changed the rules that coaches can coach their kids 10 days from June 1 to July 31,” Masters said. “If they would come to my camp and one of their players, which obviously was going to happen would come to my camp, it counted as a day.
“That was a three-day camp back then. That took away three of their 10 days, so I’m not going to get any coaches,” Masters added. “They are not going to come to my camp and do that and waist three of their days so then I dropped the age limit from 8 year olds to 14-year-old kids. That way I’m not under that rule. Now I don’t have any problem getting coaches.
“I have coaches that have been with me for years,” Masters said. “That’s how that evolved.
“They get a T-shirt, they get a certificate for individual competition, and we have what we call the Light Bowl, a seven-on-seven tournament,” Masters said. “They get awards for that if they win.
“Matt brings in a bunch of memorabilia from the New England Patriots,” Masters said. “We pull names out of the hat and give those things away.
“I defy anybody to tell me where they can go to a camp and get all that for free. All they have to do is register, fill out the forms, sign up and show up,” Masters said. “They get pictures with Matt (Light), an autograph if they want one. We’ll have a Purdue player there. Sometimes I get an Ohio State player.
“You have to pay $500–$600 to go to a football camp today, and they give you a T-shirt,” Masters said. “Ours is free.”
The Matt Light All Conference Football Camp starts Monday at Harmon Field in Greenville. For more information on the camp, visit http://www.mattlight72.com/.