New coach. New season. Same Tumwater.
Bill Beattie felt a nervous excitement for his first day of football practice at Tumwater High School.
He watched the T-Birds play when he was younger, and he and his friends were ready to make their own mark on the program. He’d heard the T-Birds had a new coach — he just wasn’t sure who it was.
That was 1974. Beattie was an incoming freshman at Tumwater, and Sid Otton — now the all-time winningest high school football coach in state history — had just arrived at the program.
Back then, Beattie walked to practice with his teammates, across the dirt and wheat fields. The old wooden stadium was still standing, and the football tradition that Otton would eventually build was just beginning.
“To have a chance to come back and hopefully continue, and make better, the tradition of things that he’s done for 43 years is just an awesome opportunity for me,” Beattie said.
“That’s probably the No. 1 reason why I’m back here. I feel like I want to try to repay this program for what they’ve done for me.”
On Wednesday, Beattie wasn’t nervous for his first day as coach. But he was certainly excited.
After coaching the past 22 years at Olympia, Beattie was hired to take over at his former high school earlier this year, following Otton’s retirement. Beattie frequently credits his own coaching success to Otton, and said it was important to him that Otton’s legacy was carried on.
“To me, it was very important,” Beattie said. “I say it all the time, I wouldn’t be doing what I was doing if it wasn’t for Coach Otton and Tumwater football.”
Otton, who Beattie often visits to talk about football, did not attend the first fall practice, but said Wednesday that Beattie was a welcome addition, and fits in well with the group of assistant coaches that chose to stay after he retired.
“It means a lot to this football program that he’s the head coach,” Otton said.
“Tumwater football is in good hands,” said senior Cy Hicks, who was an Olympian All-Area selection last season.
Beattie’s commitment to keeping with Tumwater’s longstanding traditions appears to have made the transition as seamless as expected.
“The transition has been easy,” Tumwater senior Jakob Holbrook said. “Coach Beattie made it easy for us. He wanted to make sure everyone knew he was going to keep everything the same. Don’t reinvent the wheel — that’s what he preaches.”
“I think it’s going to be key this year, for further down the road, when we go to the postseason,” Hicks said. “He knows the Tumwater tradition.”
Practice, as it always seems to in the well-established program, was running like clockwork with Beattie often watching different stations from the center of the field.
“Getting out here and starting this just brings out the same memories,” Beattie said. “It’s football, and we’re out here having a lot of fun.”
Beattie said he recently spoke with Tumwater Rotary about how much of the game has changed, but how much of it has stayed the same. The equipment, the styles of play, the conditioning are different.
But the values Beattie first witnessed in 1974 remain, and Otton remembers Beattie’s class as the first to believe in what the program — which won five state titles with Otton — could be.
“I remember we had a really good freshman group,” Otton said. “I knew Bill was a part of it, because I already knew him. What I witnessed was they believed in what we were talking about in changing the culture.”
While Tumwater’s culture isn’t expected to change with Beattie, players and coaches are excited to begin the program’s next chapter.
“We get to kind of bring on a new legacy,” Holbrook said. “We’re excited to be the first team that does that, and make a mark in Tumwater history. That’s definitely something we look forward to.”