David Trinko: Ottoville supports a good teacher and coach

Many teachers and coaches never know what kind of an impact they had on the people they’ve taught. They may have made a difference, but they might not ever hear about it. 

Bob Kaple, 81, now knows exactly how the Ottoville community feels about him.

When he resigned as cross country coach last month after 53 years leading the team, the school held an impromptu assembly so the students could hear about his time. More than 100 cards arrived at his house to show their love, first from former athletes and then from students to show their appreciation. A parade of fire trucks, cars, golf carts and even jogging cross country runners went past his house on Easter Sunday.

“I know they love me now,” he said. “I’ve loved all of them over the years.”

They want him to know it, too, as he fights his final battles with lymphoma. He recently switched to hospice care to make his final time on the planet as comfortable as possible.

“I don’t know how much time I have left, to be honest,” he said.

Some days are better than others. That day last weekend was one of the bad days. He felt exhausted and headed to bed. Still, he heard it and felt thankful for their support.

Friday was a better day. He was able to attend the junior high invitational track meet at Ottoville that now carries his name, the Bob Kaple Junior High Invitational.

“I want to make the best of it,” he said. “(Friday) I got to go up and see some of my kids.”

“My kids.” That’s how Kaple still feels about his students and runners, whether they were on his first teams or his last.

He actually started as a freshman basketball coach at Ottoville, coaching behind legendary coach Dick Kortokrax before Kortokrax became a legend at Kalida.

Cross country and track were really more of a tool to build endurance for the basketball players.

The Jaycees asked him to help with an invitational track meet. He measured out a course by an old ball diamond. High jumpers leapt into mattresses he procured. Before long, Ottoville had a track team and a cross country team.

He continued to coach the cross country team through last season. He had 31 runners qualify for the state meet, along with five teams earning state berths. His squads won four regional championships and six district championships.

“I found out I had lymphoma, and now it’s even worse,” he said. “It was time for me to pass it on to somebody else. It’s too bad, too, because we have a really good boy who will be a sophomore and a girl who will be a senior. They’re both really good.”

Kevin Horstman will take on the duties of coaching them for Ottoville’s cross country team, Kaple said. He tried to make it to 54 seasons as the coach, but the lymphoma altered his course. Then again, he had plenty of plans.

“I was shooting for 90, you know,” he said. “I don’t know right now if I’ll make 82. But it’s been a good life.”

He hopes his messages will stick with he people he taught and coached over the years.

“I believe in working hard and having fun when I’m doing it,” he said. “That’s my philosophy.”

It’s a philosophy he heard repeated over and over as they thanked their former coach, tied in with gratitude.

“I hear them repeat some things I’ve said,” Kaple said. “It’s good to hear the ones who say I was a good teacher. It’s good to hear them say I was a good coach. That’s what I always wanted, to be a good coach and a good teacher.”

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The Ottoville community continues to rally around Bob Kaple, a former teacher and coach who is fighting lymphoma.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/04/web1_Kaple.jpgThe Ottoville community continues to rally around Bob Kaple, a former teacher and coach who is fighting lymphoma. Photo courtesy of Ohio High School Athletic Association

By David Trinko

The Lima News


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

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David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.