Bill Beattie showed up for his first day of Tumwater High School football practice as a freshman in 1974.
The T-Birds had a new coach named Sid Otton. Beattie was thrilled. He’d met Otton several years earlier as a fifth-grader, when Otton coached at Colfax.
By the time Beattie was a senior, his class helped Otton to his first winning season at Tumwater, a Black Hills League championship and state quarterfinals appearance.
Beattie graduated, went on to play at Central Washington University, and eventually started a coaching career.
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This week, Otton, a recently retired legend, showed up for the first day of Tumwater football practice.
The T-Birds had a new coach named Bill Beattie. Otton was thrilled. He’s spent many years mentoring Beattie, who has been a local coach for more than three decades, most recently at Olympia High School.
“The chance to go back to where you had such a great experience I think is such an honor,” Beattie said. “It says a lot (about) those programs, that people want to come back.”
Beattie’s return to Tumwater follows an already impressive coaching career.
After college, Beattie returned briefly to Tumwater and coached as an assistant under Otton. He then spent three years at Tenino before landing his first head-coaching job at Elma in 1988.
Beattie spent the last 22 seasons building his own legacy at Olympia, where he compiled a 164-63 record.
“I’ve been all around the Black Hills now,” Beattie said. “It’s a nice big circle.”
That has all led him back to Tumwater.
“I know he’s happy to be back there,” said Shelton coach Matt Hinkle, who played with Beattie at Tumwater.
Beattie has kept close ties with Otton along the way. For as long as he can remember, Beattie has made visits to Otton’s house to talk about coaching.
“We just talk,” Beattie said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t even start out about football. We’ll talk about other things. Very little do we ever talk about X and O.”
They both love practice plans, and discussing the different aspects of coaching. It feels like home, Beattie said.
“He’s a special individual to me, and I know I wouldn’t (be in) this profession if it wasn’t for the experience I had with him,” Beattie said in January, shortly after accepting the position.
“It feels like it’s natural, and the right thing to do if I can help out in continuing the Tumwater tradition.”
Otton retired following the 2016 season as Washington’s all-time winningest high school football coach, ending a 43-year tenure at Tumwater.
Otton embraced Beattie, his successor and longtime friend, before practice began on Tuesday.
“Time to get after it,” he said.
Several minutes later, Beattie stood in the grass behind Tumwater District Stadium, surrounded by the group of athletes that will comprise Tumwater’s 57th football team.
He commenced practice as Otton looked on.
“These young men are in great hands, I know that,” Otton said.
Most of Tumwater’s assistant coaching staff joins Beattie in the next generation, and some new faces have been added.
But the program’s structure — and the famous wing-T offense — will remain largely in tact, Beattie said. Just a wrinkle here and there.
“From the outside, it will look the same,” Beattie said. “From the inside, it’s a little bit different.”
Otton said he won’t regularly attend practice, but Beattie said he has ways he wants to keep Otton involved.
“To be back here on the field with Coach Otton is something pretty special to me,” Beattie said.
The stadium’s field will be dedicated to Otton in September when Tumwater plays Bellevue, and Beattie said he’ll continue to uphold the traditions Otton has created.
“We’re excited about it,” Tumwater athletic director Tim Graham said. “It’s an awesome deal, and to be able to have Bill follow him is a big deal.”
Otton will have a seat in the stands, next to his wife, Marjean, where he’ll watch the next chapter of Tumwater football and Beattie’s career unfold.
He knows the wealth of experience Beattie will bring to the role, and said he is excited to watch.
“He used to come over to the house once in a while,” Otton said. “He would say, ‘I want to pick your brain.’ Well, it ended up I got more from him than he ever got from me.”