Williams recognized for being a standout athlete, accomplished coach
Sports have been an integral part of Randy J. Williams’ life for more than 50 years.
He grew up a backyard athlete in the Town of Lee, was a standout multi-sport athlete at Rome Free Academy and also participated at Hamilton College before going on to an extensive and accomplished career as a youth soccer coach.
That is in addition to a distinguished career as a Superior Court Judge in Indiana for nearly 14 years.
For those reasons, Williams is set to be recognized for his accomplishments Sunday as part of the Rome Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
“It was a nice surprise,” Williams said of earning the honor during a recent phone interview from Indiana. “I know I’m not giving it enough credit by saying that. But, when you look at the list of those who come before me, I’m hanging on to their shoestrings and being dragged into it. I know so many of those who are in, played sports with some (people) who are in and played for coaches who are in. It is quite an honor.”
Also being recognized by the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020 for a lifetime of excellence are football star Calvin Griggs, former gymnastics coach Phyllis R. Niemi, the late Mike Orbinati, an outstanding player and coach; hockey star J.R. Purrington and the late Joseph A. Ryan Jr., who is being inducted as a contributor. There will be a reception for inductees and other award winners at the Rome Sports Hall of Fame from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The Rome Sports Hall of Fame is located to the right of Erie Canal Village and parking is to the right of the building. The entrance is in the front facing the Village. Extra parking is available in the Village parking lot.
The annual induction awards banquet is set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel.
“There are a lot of things I’d like to say (during his allotted five-minute speech),” said Williams, who noted he wondered if it was possible to “buy more time” for his speech.
For the 65-year-old Williams, it all started playing in the backyard. That helped shape his background, he said.
“I feel sorry for kids today with how everything has to be organized. We, as adults, have gotten in the way,” Williams said. “My neighbor would take his wedge and golf balls and he’d have practice hitting his wedge and I’d have practice catching the ball. It was those types of things.”
Williams also noted he had a pitch-back net that he would use. He lost count of the “number of shingles on my parents’ house that I broke.” He noted football games would be an all-day affair with a break for lunch. His dad also put an ice rink in the backyard in the winter.
“It is what you did (as kid),” Williams said. “I’m showing my age: But I think we’ve taken that kind of joy away.”
It is different now compared to when he was a youth, Williams said. He sees a noticeable difference between those who participate in activities and sports growing up to those who didn’t in his role as a Superior Court Judge.
“It is those who are not participating in things that seem to end up in front of me (in court),” Williams said.
Williams earned his share of accolades while playing soccer, baseball and basketball at Rome Free Academy. Most notably, as a senior in 1974 he earned the school’s Black R Award for excellence in academics and soccer and baseball.
Soccer and baseball were his best sports, he said. He claimed his efforts in basketball “were not so good,” – he was more of a defensive-minded player – though he did earn the team’s unsung hero award while playing for coach Stan “Buddy” Evans.
Williams said the 1973-74 RFA basketball team that won a Section III championship was his favorite.
He also went on to letter for four years in soccer and baseball at Hamilton College. And, he was the kicker for the Clinton-based school’s football team one season when the schedule didn’t conflict with soccer.
“I would not have traded (going to Hamilton) for anything,” Williams said. “Ultimately, I knew it was education that would carry the day. But I had that great opportunity to play those sports and get to know people.”
Soccer remained a fixture in his life.
After graduating from Albany Law School, he moved to Indiana to be with his future wife – a Dolgeville native – who was attending school at Purdue.
The pair remained in Indiana and eventually had two children, Rachel and Sam. While he coached both of his children on teams over the years, he found more ease in being a coach for girls teams as they grew up. His children both went to Butler University and played club soccer at the school.
“I found it harder with boys to coach in general,” he said. “Girls hate attention. Boys felt they knew it all and I didn’t have the patience for that.”
His club-level girls soccer teams claimed much success. He coached a total of 32 squads over 25 seasons in 16 calendar years. His teams won two state division championships, 13 league titles and eight tournament championships. He also helped grow and develop the travel club from three teams to a merged squad.
“We were very successful over the years,” said Williams, who noted an emphasis on defense for his teams. “I was fortunate to have girls who could score goals despite my coaching abilities.”
He stepped away from coaching in 2020 to spend more time with his family.
What is he most proud of as a coach?
“When I hear from the girls I coach and they tell me what they’re doing with their lives now. I have attorneys, therapists and teachers. I was always more concerned with them about real life,” he said. “I hope by giving examples of what I saw and faced on a daily basis how important it is to get your education and things will be good.”
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