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Young coach is groomed to win
Influenced by his mentor as an FHS baseball player, then assistant coach, Davis Burklin’s desire to be a head coach is rekindled


Davis Burklin’s love of baseball has been rekindled after enjoying Farragut High School’s success from a second perspective.

Meanwhile, his appreciation for being a teacher and role model has been honed and sharpened through working with special needs relatives far away from baseball.

Burklin, former All-Region 2-AAA and All-District 4-AAA first baseman with the Admirals (Class of 2001), once again has found his passion for the diamond: as an FHS assistant under five-time Class AAA state championship head coach Tommy Pharr.

Burklin, coached by Pharr at FHS while helping lead the Admirals to a pair of state runner-up finishes (1999, 2001) as a standout first baseman, said he lost his passion for baseball. That happened after a less than desirable experience playing at East Tennessee State University.


“I’m back with coach Pharr at Farragut, and that love and that passion has come back to me a little bit,” he said.

About how winning consecutive Class AAA state championships has affected his eagerness to run a high school program, “It really has enhanced my drive to [head] coach,” Burklin said. “Just starting at the very beginning [fall ball], and finally it coming together at the end — especially as tight and emotional a one as it was this year — you get to sit back and reflect on it a little bit, how things worked out over the long haul.

“It makes you look at it and kinda try to break it down and find where the success came from.”

As a player, “I didn’t get one for myself,” Burklin said. But as a coach, “It’s almost more rewarding in the fact that you get to see these kids work hard, lay it all out there and play hard for each other and play for their coach.”

Saying he was raised around baseball with special influence from his father, Bryan, Burklin said Pharr’s baseball passion “kinda rubbed off on me, grew on me as well.

“Coaching is definitely what I want to do and where my heart is,” he added. “I can’t see my life without baseball in it. … I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the [head] coaching end of it.”

But to be a head coach at the high school level in Tennessee, you must be a teacher. Special certification is required.

Having earned a logistics supply chain management degree this spring from The University of Tennessee, Burklin, 26, said he’s in the initial phases of looking into a “post-degree certificate program” for teaching at an area college.

“I don’t really have a timetable set; it’s probably within the next year or so depending on how long each of the programs last,” said Burklin, adding his goal is to be a head coach before age 30. “I want to make sure I’m ready.”

However, “I thoroughly enjoy learning under coach Pharr right now … I’m pretty content for the next year where I am,” he added. “I value his opinions on everything.. I try to pick his brain when I can. I try to observe. I don’t want to be too [much] in his ear all the time.”

Working alongside fellow FHS assistant Brian McCord, along with strength-conditioning coach Trace Pate, Burklin compared his role as player under Pharr versus coach under Pharr.

“I’ve thought a lot about this before, just kinda in my own head. It’s kinda hard to compare ’em. You kinda get the end result of all his work as a player, and you don’t necessarily realize what goes into it and how hard he works and how good he is,” Burklin said. “As a coach you kinda see behind the scenes and what goes into it. … The amount of time he puts in. … he’s got a passion for the game, the love of the game. It’s not just a job to him.

“He does a phenomenal job, and I’m very, very fortunate to be able to coach with him.”

Pharr said, “It’s fun to have guys that played under you.

“Davis was a good player, loves the game, a student of the game,” Pharr added. “He has a passion for what he does.”

Burklin “relates really well with our guys, and our guys love him,” Pharr said. “He’s a younger guy and that’s a good thing for him right now. He was a real good hitter in high school, and has kinda been a student of hitting since.

Burklin said, “They come to me a lot of times when they don’t want to go to coach Pharr, if it’s an intimidating question to ask. They came and asked me if it was O-K to dump the water cooler on him” after winning the ’09 state crown.

“I said, ‘of course,’ no problem.

“If they have a bad at-bat or a bad play, an error, a lot of times it’s my job to try to go pick ’em up,” he added. “I’m fairly close to them in age. … I can still remember what it feels like to play and they seem to be able to relate to that.”

Burklin is looking to follow the path of another player/assistant under Pharr who already has enjoyed head coaching success in high school.

Matt Buckner, having just finished his sixth season as head coach at rival Bearden, assisted on FHS’s 2003 championship team. Buckner led his 2009 Bulldogs to the program’s first-ever state tourney appearance.

Buckner, a standout catcher under Pharr at Monterey High School in the mid-1990s who went on to Roane State Community College, coached under Pharr three seasons (01-03).

“I think it’s easier to do when you’ve seen it done right,” Buckner said of Pharr’s leadership. “It’s been a huge help to me. I don’t think I would be where I’m at today without that.”

About Buckner’s rise, “That’s a path I want to emulate … now he’s the head coach of a really successful program,” Burklin said. “He was the cool younger guy.”

As a player, Burklin remembers that “sometimes you might not understand why coach Pharr would do what he’d do, and I’d talk to [Buckner] about that.”

Burklin said he remembers Buckner working with catchers “and I was a catcher [at one time]. And I’m [working with] the catchers now.”

COMPANION MODEL

“I’m a companion model … “I’m an employee of Sertoma Center downtown. I take care of two special needs individuals” ages 27 and 25, Burklin said about his current job. “Basically I live with them full time, I live in their house.

“Just trying to teach them independence and living skills and social skills,” Burklin added. “Help them cook and clean and develop good habits and routines.

“The baseball park is really good for them in that sense. Everyone’s really good to ’em, and they really have a sense of belonging there.

“It’s kind of a twofold bonus for me.”

Moreover, “I can take principles that I learn into coaching.”

Pharr shared some advice for Burklin or any young coach aspiring to be a head coach.

“It’s probably just the amount of things you have to do outside of baseball,” Pharr said. “The fundraising, the communicating with parents, all the things that aren’t ever baseball-related.”

 

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