"That's my problem - I have trouble saying no when it comes to the sport," said Bob Rothenberg, who volunteered this year to coach the girls' track team at Fairmont Heights High School in Prince George's County. In the six years he has coached boys' track at the school, he has seen his teams win five indoor Maryland state track titles, including the last four, and four state outdoor crowns.
Rothenberg didn't see incorporating the girl runners with his regular boys group as any big deal. "I thinK, the first couple of months, it's been like coaching two teams because a lot of the girls (13 fo 17 team members) had never run before," said Rothenberg, 34, who is simply called Berg by most area track fanatics."I n the first few weeks, we had to show them . . . you could still be a young lady and sweat, that the pain involved in track can be a sweet pain if it's involved in success.
"I don't see it as two teams now. I see it as one large (60-member) team," Rothenberg added. "It didn't take long for the girls to accept the boys, but it took three months (since school started in September) to get the boys to accept the girls as athletes."
For Rotheberg, coaching is an equal partnership with Anne Braumbart. On paper, Rotheberg coaches the track events, an dBraumbart, who teaches English at Fairmont, takes charge of the field events. But as they explain it, Rothenberg plays the "hard, cold" role of coach, while Braumbart plays the "softer, understanding" leader.
Rothenberg lives, teaches and coaches with Braumbart, 28, and it is hard to find a track meet of any significance not attended by Rothenberg and Braumbart. He's a familiar sight, pacing nervously around, tightly clasping a crumpled, mimeographed program of the day's activities, electric timer slung around his neck.
"I'd probably stay home and worry about what the other teams are doing, so I might as well go out and see what they're doign," said Rotahenberg, a two-miler and cross country runner in high school in New Jersey and Brown University. "I enjoy it. I love it. What can I tell you? There's very little money involved in track. You find people who are in it because they love it. I think a lot of young people develop greatly when they have that pressure on them - individual and team - to perform. In track, you're out there in the flesh. You can't hide it (behind a team performance)."
Rothenberg's involvement doesn't end at the meets. His phone constantly rings, often from complete strangers who have their questions referred to him. He is director of the East Coast Invitational meet, which acts as the east coast's age-group competition; the Meet of Champions, which served for five year's as the East Coast's high school championship and shoudl return to Gallaudet College this year aftaer missing last season because of insufficient funds, and the Washington Birthday Marathon in Beltsville and the Runners' World Magazine 24-Hour Relay, which have both experienced termendous growth since their initiation in 1972.
If you enjoy yourself, I don't think ther's any problem doing it in excess," Rotahebeg said. "If I can't coach with that intensity, I'd quit. I don't know what I'd do then.
"It's a good feeling to see people, know people. I don't think I'm any different than a guy working 18 hours for a corporation, except he makes more money. But if you work 18 hours, you don't have time to spend it, anyway."
Braumbart is a recent convert totrack but despite her work, most of Fairmost's achievements are credited to Rothenberg, which disturbs him as much as it bothers her. "When we win the state championship, it's Fairmont Heights' team," said Braumbart, a graduate of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring and the University of Maryland. "The papers may say it's Bob Rothenberg's team, but we know how it is . . . Sometimes it's hard for me. . sometimes I get tired of hearing it's Bob Rothenbeg's team."
"The natural thing is to reocgnize the man and say that she's just tagging along," said Rothenbrg, who teaches history. "She gets to certain kids. At track meets, kids form other teams search her out for her expertise on the field events just like they look for me on the track events."
Things are already looking up for Fairmont in the present indoor season. The Hornets had boys teams finish in the top three positions of 10 of the 11 events of the recent Towson State COllege High School Relays and the girls won three of 10 events. No team scores wer kept.
At Fairmont, ther is a singular goal - to win a state championship - and every member of the team knows where the priorities are.
"At Fairmont Heights, if we don't win the state champiopnship, it's not a successful season," said Rothenberg, who proudly pointed out that 14 of his 17 seniors from last season were now in college. "I've been very fortunate at Fairmont Heights. I don't know what I'd do if the well went dry, if I had a mediocre team. I don't know how I'd handle it fi I went to a meet and I didn't count the score because I didn't think we had a chance to win."