There wasn’t much that Bob Nabors wouldn’t do. He simply wanted to help people in any way that he could. Whether that was in the classroom as a teacher or out on a field, court, or any other athletic surface where he coached, Nabors wanted to give back in any way he could.
Despite having many loves, his main love was coaching tennis. Nabors began coaching boys tennis at North Montgomery in 1982 and did that for a decade until 1992. In addition to coaching the boys he also began coaching the Charger girls tennis team in 1986 and that’s where he found his true passion.
Nabors passed away back on Nov. 9 at the age 86. He left a lasting imprint on everyone he interacted with.
“In my 20 plus years of being in Athletic Administration, he’s been my favorite coach to have worked with,” North Montgomery athletic director Matt Merica said.
Nabors would coach the girls tennis team until 2017 and in those 21 years he accumulated seven sectional titles and five Sagamore Conference titles. He also assisted former Charger coach and player Shannon Joyce for a few more seasons when the Chargers won sectional and conference crowns again in 2018 and ‘19.
Joyce who played under Nabors from 2006-2010 reflected on the impact that Nabors had on her not only as a player or coach, but in many other ways as well.
“He was the type of person who wanted to keep tabs on you no matter what you were involved in,” Joyce said. “Whether that was out of tennis season or any other activities you were doing, he always wanted to know what was going on and be involved and that’s something that I truly admire about him. We weren’t just ‘another player’ to him and that meant a lot to us.”
A life of wanting to be around people came to Nabors while he was in college. Originally he attended Valparaiso Technical Institute (closed in 1991) and decided to change his career path in order to be able to be around people. With that in mind he got his bachelor’s degree in teaching and he and his wife Judy, and three kids moved to Illinois so he could pursue his dream.
“He was an encourager, no matter what it was in life,” Judy said. “Whether it was in math at school or in sports, he wanted to help them be the best that they could. That love for people simply came from God. He believed that there was a stronger power out there than ourselves. That comes from that type A personality that he had.”
Nabors people first personality extended well beyond the classroom and tennis courts. Samantha Sells who played under Nabors from 2008-2012 will remember him much more than being her coach.
“Bob undoubtedly cultivated a winning program at North, but his impact was so much bigger than tennis,” she said. “I believe that the greatest coaches are the ones who continue to be a part of their players’ lives long after the sport is over, and Bob exemplified that. No matter how many years had passed, we always picked up where we left off, and I looked up to him just as much as I did when he was my coach. I am thankful to have called him a mentor and friend for so many years, and he will be truly missed.”
Another former player for Nabors and current Montgomery County Community Foundation Communications and Scholarship Director Sarah Storms mentioned how the success that she and the team had was because of how Nabors continued to push them to be their very best.
“Your spot in the lineup was never guaranteed with him,” Storms said. “He had very high expectations for everyone but at the end of the day he was one of the best people you could be around.”
When you ask those who knew him best what they want Nabor’s legacy to be and what he should be remembered for, it’s a pretty simple and easy answer.
“I want him to be remembered for how fair he was to every single person,” Judy said. “If somebody was making their best effort to do something he’d always give them the benefit of the doubt. He’d never flunk anyone while he was teaching, he’s always try and help them succeed. On the other hand if you could do better you’d better watch out because he knew and he’d expect that from then on.”
Joyce mentioned the fact that despite the generation gap between him and his athletes, he was still able to form a connection and bond with them, and a very special one at that.
“The girls respected him and valued his expertise,” she said. “We all enjoyed his presence and were concerned when he was absent and knew how much he cared for us. It was truly an honor to get to see him in action in creating those relationship, shaping young adults, and coaching the sport of tennis.”
Storms echoed Joyce’s comments about Nabors and the life lessons that he would teach his players and being in high school, sometimes those lessons wouldn’t hit right away.
“He had the experience and he wasn’t afraid to let you know about it sometimes,” Storms said. “I don’t think I fully realized some of the things he was trying to teach us until I was out of high school. He always wanted you to give 110 percent and that lesson applies to daily life too. He wasn’t afraid to get involved. Whether that was at school or in the community, he always wanted to have a role doing something.”
Nabors was able to touch so many people during his tenure with North Montgomery. The Chargers not only lost a great coach, but a great person and that is shown by the comments of everyone that he was able to be associated with. He was truly a Charger at heart.
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