On any given day, Richard Williams seamlessly transitions from Physics teacher to senior advisor to varsity football coach at The Episcopal School of Dallas. He also tackles the responsibilities that come with being a dad and mentor to his three children, 85 students, and 135 student-athletes, including the Middle School and JV football players. He also monitors the Study Commons every morning beginning at 7:00. After football practice and a quick meeting with his coaching staff, Williams stays behind on campus to wash all of the practice clothes and jerseys for the JV and varsity athletes. Four loads of laundry later, and once the jerseys are folded and put away, Williams crosses Montwood for the final time of the day around 10:30 p.m.
But no matter how hectic his schedule gets, though, Williams also finds time to coach and mentor his students.
“During the summer I had to miss a lot of summer practices because I was traveling for college visits,” Gaetano Sinacola, a senior captain on the football team and Physics student, explains. “Coach Williams was very understanding as to why I wouldn’t be at some practices, and he even came with me on two of my visits. He’s one of the most compassionate people I’ve met, and I couldn’t be happier to have him as my coach and teacher for my last year of high school.”
A graduate of The Kinkaid School in Houston, Williams was a running back on Rice University’s football team. Captain his senior year, Williams was also a two-time SWC “Offensive Player of the Week” recipient and a four-year Letterman. After graduating from Rice with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, he worked for ExxonMobil for 17 years, serving as the company’s Global Marketing Manager.
When the company wanted him to move to Brussels, he traded his corporate life for the laboratory and a coach’s whistle. Inspired by his oldest son Caleb, who had just started to develop a passion for football, Williams began coaching his son’s youth league. A few years later, he joined the coaching staff at Kinkaid and started teaching Physics alongside his former science teacher, Linda Miller. In addition to his teaching duties, Williams was instrumental in helping lead the Kinkaid football team to back-to-back SPC Division I Championships.
Williams joined the ESD community in 2011 as the assistant coach and offensive coordinator for the varsity football team. A chance meeting between him and ESD’s Head of Upper School, Donna Hull, unveiled Williams’ desire to split his time between the playing field and science lab.
“When Richard came to interview for the football position, I was asked to speak with him in the Dining Commons for a few minutes. Word was that he ‘could teach Physics too.’ It didn't take five minutes to figure out that Richard was a match for ESD,” Dr. Hull says. “He's the full package - the teacher, the coach, the mentor, and the advisor. He gives 110 percent every day.”
The “110 percent” attitude is evident in how the students respect and respond to him as both a teacher and coach. In his classroom, students aren’t afraid to speak up. Rather than calling on a student when they raise their hand, Williams is hit with multiple answers each time he poses a question. He’ll accept any answer, right or wrong, before providing the solution.
“Coach Williams is great about going through each step of the process and is always very helpful when I don’t understand something right away,” Annabel McGill, a senior Physics student, says. “I think him being a coach makes him an excellent teacher because he is used to working on technique.”
Williams refers to his classroom as an “open environment” where no wrong or dumb answers exist. Even if a student misses the answer, Williams uses the opportunity as a teaching moment to relate it to a subject later down the road, or a tangent to another concept to ensure all students feel comfortable speaking out and participating in discussions.
“Coaching and teaching are really similar because when I’m in the classroom I am coaching my students to be confident and how to train and prepare for a big exam,” Williams explains. “It’s the same thing on the football field – I’m teaching the student-athletes the fundamentals needed to build on past successes while also perfecting their technique to keep them healthy and safe.”
The students he teaches and coaches are Williams’ priority, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s managed to rack up a few post-season accolades on the turf, too. In his four years at ESD, Williams has helped lead the football team to two post-season appearances under the new SPC bracket system, and as head coach, a Small School Division II State Championship.
“To actually go 9-2 and win the championship as my first year as the head coach … no one saw that coming, including myself,” he admits. “It’s a testament to the kids coming together as a team. We were always the underdog heading into a big game, especially against some of the southern-area teams, but we never lost faith. I think that’s what make ESD kids so special – they believe in themselves in everything they do.”
The Eagles won their season-opener in a commanding 53-14 decision over Second Baptist School from Houston at the Brookhill Classic in Tyler. The team’s next game is Friday, September 4 against cross-town rival St. Mark’s.
“It such a pleasure to work with a coach of his caliber,” ESD’s Director of Athletics, Jerry Reese, says. “He's a true teacher-coach who understands the demands placed on student-athletes every day and how to respond to them. His lives out ESD’s values of honor, respect, and integrity in everything he does, it shows whether he’s conducting a lab or calling plays.”
Both professions compliment Williams’ skill set and are a testament to his character, so it is not surprising that he won’t play favorites.
“When I’m in the classroom, Physics is my favorite part of my job, but then when I’m on the sideline, football is my favorite,” Williams says. “I could go with just one and be completely happy, the fact that I can combine them is awesome.”