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80-Year-Old Barnsdall Coach Wins Another State Title

80-Year-Old Barnsdall Coach Wins Another State Title

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Joe Gilbert is a state-champion coach for the second time in his long career. Joe Gilbert is a state-champion coach for the second time in his long career.
“I’ve had good kids,” he said. “I’ve had good kids,” he said.
BARNSDALL, Oklahoma -

If they play it in the town of Barnsdall, Joe Gilbert has coached it.

He's won more than 3,400 games since moving to town in 1954.

This week, he's a state champion for the second time in his long career

Joe Gilbert admits he's not a big fan of publicity. But maybe he can't help it. A head coach at Barnsdall for over 50 years walks the floor in Joe Gilbert Gymnasium and could talk about his collection of trophies.

He says he's lucky to have players.

“I’ve had good kids,” he said. "That’s the basic thing. I’ve been lucky.”

Gilbert's won in different sports in different decades, including the 1980 state baseball championship.

But this year, the 80-year-old skipper of the Panthers slow-pitch softball team brought home another state title.

“We just had a hard time getting past that runner-up position, and this year we finally did it,” Gilbert said.

For many players past and present -- some under the same roof like the Javine-LaFlore family which includes two state champions -- his lessons were simple.

“He just pushed me, made me better,” said Mikki Javine LaFlore, who played for Gilbert in 1985. “If I messed up in a game, he’d take me to the field and we’d practice ‘til we got it right.”

Each of the three former players talk about their memories with coach Gilbert and how he pushed them hard to get ground balls and put the ball in play. They comment on how he's been able to coach so long.

“The secret to playing for Joe Gilbert is that if you have the ability to hit the ball, he’ll find some place to put you,” Dale Javine, a 1955 player of Gilbert’s.

Added 1980 state champ Cleve Javine: “It's amazing that he does coach, still to this day. He’s still coaching the same ol’ way as he used to.”

Gilbert says he’ll remain coaching as long as his health is good, and his dedication to coaching will remain high.

But when he finally calls it quits, Gilbert he says he’ll be a Barsdallian for life.

One thing is for certain, Gilbert's legacy is already cemented.

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