BILLINGS — For 40 years, George Nelson has been a constant in the classroom and at various athletic venues in Roberts. That long career will be over in a couple weeks.
Nelson, 62, has coached track and field, basketball, cross country, football and rodeo during his four-decade career, spent entirely at Roberts. He more or less decided to retire from both coaching and teaching last year, and he officially announced his decision this spring.
“I love the school, but 40 years, for the sake of the school, it was time for some new blood,” Nelson told 406mtsports.com on Tuesday. “Roberts is a special town and a special school. I’ve just gotten the chance to coach some really special kids and watch them go on and become great people.”
Nelson currently teaches the fifth and sixth grades, and he has taught at those levels for most of his 40 years. His coaching resume is much larger.
He coached at both the junior high and high school levels, often at the same time:
- 35 years combined as a boys and girls basketball coach
- 33 years as a track and field coach, mostly focused on pole vault with some distance running and high jump mixed in
- 16 years as a cross country coach
- Five years as a football coach
- Five years as a club rodeo coach
He also spent 12 years as the athletic director at Roberts High.
Nelson was the head coach of the Roberts boys basketball team in 2003, when the Rockets won the Class C state title. As Roberts’ head cross country coach, he won a state boys championship in 1989 and girls titles in 1992 and 1996.
Though he spent many seasons in the top coaching position, Nelson often preferred to be an assistant. He’s never been a head track coach, for instance, and he spent this past winter as an assistant coach with the Roberts girls basketball program.
“It’s nice to make suggestions sometimes rather than make decisions,” he said.
Jene Reinhardt has worked alongside Nelson in multiple settings: as an assistant girls basketball coach, as co-athletic director and in her current roles as head cross country and track coach. She described Nelson as a “hardcore” coach with high expectations who was more than willing to yell at his athletes.
But Nelson was able to balance business and fun, Reinhardt said, and she praised his knowledge and wisdom.
“Even with the high expectations, the kids just loved him,” Reinhardt said. “The school is losing someone who has been such an incredible influence. He’s done so many positive, great things for our school. He’s held students to a higher standard.”
Nelson is looking forward to spending his retired years skiing, fly fishing and spending more time with his grandchildren. And while his coaching career is all but over, he plans to attend many sporting events after he retires.
“I know it’s a cliche, but it’s really true — I’m gonna miss the kids,” he said. “I’ve had some great journeys.”