If there’s a youth sport being played somewhere in Hgtn. County, Houser’s probably coached it

Ray Houser (right), a coach for the Crestview Middle School wrestling team, gives some instruction to wrestler Riley Bowman during a meet. Passionate about coaching, Houser has called the shots for numerous teams in a variety of different sports through the county.
Ray Houser (right), a coach for the Crestview Middle School wrestling team, gives some instruction to wrestler Riley Bowman during a meet. Passionate about coaching, Houser has called the shots for numerous teams in a variety of different sports through the county. Photo provided.

Originally published Jan. 25, 2016.

Ray Houser has held more coaching positions than he can remember.

Well aware of this, he produces a piece of paper from his pocket baring the names of his many coaching gigs to trigger his memory.

It’s a long list: flag football at the Huntington Police Athletic League; Huntington Parks and Recreation Department soccer; Upward Sports basketball, as well as hoops at Horace Mann Elementary School and the Salvation Army; Roanoke Youth Sports soccer; football, wrestling and soccer at Crestview Middle School.

“I’ve coached about everywhere, pretty much,” he says.

Houser got bitten by the coaching bug back in 2002. He cut his teeth coaching PAL football and parks department soccer.

“And then it just kept on escalating from there,” he says.

Having four kids had something to do with this. Houser says he’s coached all of his kids – even educated himself on one sport, in particular, in the interests of providing better instruction.

“Soccer wasn’t too big when I was younger, but as I watched my daughter playing, I felt like there needed (to be) more people that kind of knew the game, so I kind of just watched, observed and talked to high school coaches and travel coaches,” he says.

Whenever one of his kids hasn’t shown an interest in participating in a sport he’s coaching, Houser has found another way to get them involved.

“They become my managers, too, if they don’t want to play that sport,” he explains. “I don’t force them to play. But they’ve helped me out.”

Houser has two daughters, Elizabeth and Olivia, and two sons, Eric and Trevor.

His wife, Holly, also helps him out on the sidelines.

“My wife’s coached quite a bit with me, though, too, with Roanoke soccer and parks department soccer,” he says, adding that she currently coaches soccer at Crestview.

Growing up, Houser wrestled and played football. He credits his wrestling coach at Huntington North High School, Jim Hittler, with being the person who inspired him to get into coaching.

Wrestling continues to occupy a special place in Houser’s heart. When asked what his favorite sport to coach is, he doesn’t hesitate.

“I love them all, but wrestling’s my backbone,” he confesses.

Regardless of the sport, Houser’s overarching philosophy as a coach is to not let players get comfortable just playing one position.

“What I stress is making them learn every position,” he notes. “Some of the other coaches, they want to worry about the wins and that’s not my biggest thing. Once you find your spots, then put them in those spots. When tournament comes, then you’ll see a big difference.”

While the usually laidback Houser says he does get fired up from time to time while coaching, he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to make a habit of it.

“Because if you get too fired up … if you’re out there yelling and screaming at any refs, (the players are) going to do the same thing,” he explains. “They’re going to think all the calls are against us. You can’t do that. Because you’re just only going to see it in your eye, you’re not going to see it in the ref’s eye or the other people watching the game.”

When looking back on all the teams he’s coached, some of his Roanoke Youth Sports soccer squads stand out, in particular.

“We had some great seasons out there,” he reflects. “We had a couple years where we maybe only lost one game. And then there’s been one year where we were one of the bottom teams and ended up winning it.”

Houser, a deputy with the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department, says he’s had to cut back on coaching lately due to his work schedule. However, he does still make time to instruct at Champs Academy, in Huntington, where he teaches mixed martial arts to all ages. And when spring arrives, he says he intends to coach parks department soccer with his wife.

Until then, he says he’ll be keeping an eye out for budding athletes who would make fine additions to any of the local teams.

“I’m not coaching now, I’m still recruiting for all the teams, even Riverview, too,” he says with a grin. “Ask (kids) what type of sport they’re into and then (try) to point them in the right direction.”