Penn Cambria mentor gets head coaching job late in life

Rodger Fair’s been a prominent face on the area coaching sidelines the last decade, but you might not have noticed because he was always seated as an assistant.

Fair is getting his first shot at being in charge of a program this year, guiding the Penn Cambria girls. The Mirror’s Philip Cmor caught up to Fair on Sunday afternoon.

Mirror: At the age of 60, you finally get a head coaching job. This is your first head coaching job, isn’t it?

Fair: First head coaching job. I was junior high coach at Bellwood for four years, then I was an assistant with the high school girls at Altoona for seven years, and I spent last year at Central as the JV coach.

Mirror: These days, a lot of coaches are getting out when they are 60. A lot are getting out much earlier in life. Why did you decide to become a head coach now?

Fair: I think it’s one of those things where I always coached my kids in elementary programs and things such as that as a volunteer, so I always felt a passion for helping kids. Obviously, doing it as an assistant for the last 12 years, I think the opportunity to always challenge yourself to see what you can do with a program, keeping in mind that it’s still for the kids. Maybe it’s the challenge to see what you can do with a program running it yourself was the thing about pursuing that opportunity.

Mirror: Was there anything about becoming a head coach that was unexpected?

Fair: I think this is pretty much what I was grooming myself for. I think a lot of coaches in the area might experience the same thing. It just seems that the number of kids participating seems a little on the decline. I heard of that being an issue and have seen it as an assistant. Of course, now it hit me in the face. We’ve dealt with it. We moved ninth graders up. We just keep going forward.

Mirror: How do you feel about how the season’s gone? You are in a pretty tough section with Bishop Guilfoyle and Forest Hills, but you’ve been competitive and picked up a couple of nice wins.

Fair: The Laurel Highlands Conference, no matter what section, there’s some really quality teams. Obviously, we’re in Section 1, where Bishop Guilfoyle and Forest Hills have outstanding programs. It’s a challenge to have four games on your schedule that are going to involve them, but they really do create opportunities to measure yourself and prepare yourself. And you look up and down and there’s a lot of competitive squads there. I think it’s a testament for the basketball that’s played in that conference.

Mirror: Before you got into coaching, you were in hotel management.

Fair: I spent about 16 years in hotel management down in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. To make a career change, I had to go back to school to get my teaching certificate.

Mirror: Was having the opportunity to coach part of the motivation to get into teaching or was coaching a by-product of becoming a teacher?

Fair: I’m not sure on the connection. My dad was a guidance counselor his entire career, so I always thought about teaching. The coaching, though, I had done as a volunteer with youth organizations in Florida. They kind of go hand-in-hand. I’ve always been a natural teacher whether I was with sports groups or in the classroom, so I guess it never stops.

Mirror: How long do you see yourself doing this?

Fair: I don’t have a time table. Obviously, people ask me about teaching because I got into it late. They ask, ‘What are you going to do?’ I say, ‘I’m going to go until I don’t like it anymore.’ My health is good, and I enjoy it, so I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t, whether it’s teaching kids in the classroom or coaching kids on the floor.