For 30-plus years he’s suited up in the black and gold, and God only knows how many times he’s set foot on the dirt and the grass at Jonathan Brookins Memorial Field.
But later this spring, Lincolnton High School’s Cole Sigmon will be stepping away from his duties as teacher, coach and athletic director and entering the world of retirement.
Sigmon, who played baseball at Wingate University, began his career at LHS in January of 1990 when an art teaching position came open. While splitting his teaching time between Lincolnton and West Lincoln during his first year, Sigmon assisted Dan Hardee with the Rebels’ program for a season before taking a full-time position at LHS in 1991.
Richard Smith was the athletic director at the school, and Bobby Martin was the head baseball coach. Sigmon would take over the JV coaching duties.
“I’ve always loved baseball,” Sigmon said about getting his first head coaching job, “even at 3, 4 and 5 years old. What drives you is the competition. The idea of trying to get our athletes to compete against equal or better athletes got my juices flowing.”
Sigmon would also join the football staff under Smith. He loved the challenge of trying to figure out how to get 11 on offense to score against the 11 on defense, and vice-versa. He compared it to finding a way to get the man in the batter’s box out in baseball.
Over time, Sigmon worked his way into being the head baseball coach in 2005, and took over as athletic director in 2015. When asked what it was like following in the footsteps of Von Ray Harris, Richard Smith and Scott Cloninger as A.D., Sigmon said, “No way I could live up to what those three did. No way.”
“The times and the way things evolved, made it more difficult,” Sigmon said. “The responsibilities were magnified. Dealing with parents and athletes was never a problem, but a lot of the legalities and issues made the A.D. job very stressful. You lay down at night and worry about something that you forgot to do.”
Sigmon has had many great memories while at LHS, including assisting on the 1995 state championship baseball team and a pair of football state champions. “All the success we’ve had in sports,” Sigmon said. “I don’t know that anyone has seen what I’ve seen. Five football state championship games, one in baseball and one in basketball.”
But like in any career, the good days always come with a few bad ones. Sigmon mentioned a road trip to Shelby one fall Friday night to take on the Golden Lions, in which he was responsible for making sure the footballs were there.
“I forgot the footballs,” said Sigmon. “Coach Smith wondered how we were going to play a game without any footballs.”
Sigmon remembers driving back to Lincolnton to get the footballs, and arriving back at Shelby by the end of the first quarter.
And sports haven’t been the only thing that has provided Sigmon with lasting memories while at Lincolnton, it’s also where he met his wife Sandy. Sigmon said it took about three attempts to finally convince Sandy to give him her phone number, but he finally got it.
“For 26 years, I’ve worked with my wife,” Sigmon said. “Us being at the same place has been convenient.”
The couple has three daughters, Aubrey, Avery and Ashton. All three girls attended North Lincoln, instead of making the daily trip with mom and dad. “It’s better that way,” said Sigmon. “We didn’t want to put pressure on the kids or the staff.”
Sigmon will truly miss things at LHS, like getting tickets from “Kojak.” “It’s just been normal to take care of Kojak,” said Sigmon. “He comes here to feel safe.”
And he’ll miss his daily routine. “This is the only job that I could do that wasn’t like a job,” Sigmon said. “I could draw every day, and go to the athletic fields after school.”
This baseball season has to leave Sigmon wondering if now is the right time to retire. The team is off to a 4-1 start, including a win over the defending 2A state champions. “We’ve got some younger players that can play,” said Sigmon. “We’ve got the most ninth-graders to come out since I’ve been here.”
But with all the uncertainty going on with the Coronavirus, nobody knows if the team will even get back on the field this year. “I don’t think we’ll play any more this year,” Sigmon said. “If you look at the big picture, people’s lives and what’s going on is much more important. “It’s sad for our seniors. It’s tough for me to swallow.”
But either way, Sigmon is content with his season and his career. “How lucky was I?,” said Sigmon. “To grow up not even a mile from here (LHS) and to go to school here. The coaches and administrators gave me everything I needed to be successful.”
“Everything that I’ve got, I owe to this place,” Sigmon said. “My career, my wife, my family. If it weren’t for Lincoln County Schools, I don’t know what I’d have done.”