Paul Vaughn is back for his second stint as Sterlington High's athletic trainer.
“You can't go home again” — Thomas Wolfe.
As far as Paul “Doc” Vaughn is concerned, Wolfe, a highly-acclaimed, early 20th century novelist, got it wrong.
When classes resume at Sterlington High School next month, it will be as if Vaughn never left. Picking up where he left off, Vaughn has reassumed the duties of head athletic trainer while teaching sports medicine and health occupation classes.
Vaughn spent nine years at SHS before accepting the position as head athletic trainer at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. in August of 2011. Returning to the area in 2012, Vaughn spent the past two years as an assistant football coach and softball coach at West Ouachita.
When Daniel Byrd, Sterlington's athletic trainer for the past three years, accepted a position at Texarkana Texas High, Vaughn was the natural replacement.
Vaughn's wife, Jane, was the SHS secretary at the time the family relocated to Arkadelphia. Their oldest son, Conner Bryan (21), was a standout athlete for the Panthers until transferring prior to his senior year. Sons Luke, a 17-year-old senior at SHS, and 14-year-old Clay, who is entering his eighth grade year at Sterlington Middle School, re-enrolled in Sterlington schools upon the family's return in 2012.
“I'm ready to see my kids,” Vaughn said. “With me being way over at West Ouachita, Jane was kind of on her own.”
As an added bonus, Vaughn is reunited with Jason Thompson, the school's second-year head coach and athletic director.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Vaughn began his coaching career at his alma mater, Greenville (Miss.) Washington. Thompson was head baseball coach and Vaughn was an assistant for the Generals during the 1996-97 school year. Shortly after joining the West Ouachita staff, Thompson recommended Vaughn for West Ouachita's vacancy as athletic trainer.
“I actually met Jason in 1997,” Vaughn, who also served as an athletic trainer and elementary P.E. teacher at Washington. “Jason left and went to the WO in the spring of 1997 and called me in June. I was actually working on the family farm that summer. He told me Don Tumey had been hired (as West Ouachita's head football coach and AD) and was looking for an athletic trainer.
“Jason's actually the reason I came to Ouachita Parish. Basically, I came with him.”
Predictably, Vaughn was ecstatic when Thompson was hired as the Panthers' head coach following a successful stint as Neville's defensive coordinator.
“When Jason got the head coaching job, I was excited they hired him,” Vaughn said. “I'm definitely excited to be back working with him.
“We have great coaches in all sports and I'm definitely happy to be working with coach Dell Ashley (the SHS Principal) again. I'm definitely happy to be back.”
Thompson is equally happy to have Vaughn back on board.
“We are extremely excited about the return of Paul and his family to Sterlington High School,” Thompson said. “I have been fortunate enough to have worked with him before and look forward to doing so again. He is a high character guy that will provide our athletes with top notch care! I know that our kids will love what he brings to the table both as a person and a trainer.”
Though he has longed to return to Sterlington for the past two years, Vaughn says he is grateful for his time at West Ouachita. He specifically thanked Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Webber, Ouachita Parish Schools Personnel Director Dr. Don Coker and West Ouachita Principal Mickey Merritt for their support.
“I enjoyed West Ouachita,” Vaughn said. “They were very, very good to me over there. Dr. Webber, Dr. Coker and Mr. Merritt have been very accommodating to me. As soon as a job opened up in the parish when I came back from Arkansas, those three men were very gracious to me. They were very understanding when the Sterlington job came open, too.”
As stated earlier, Vaughn differs with Frost regarding coming home. Nor does he agree with the old proverb, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.”
“I enjoyed the college thing, it just wasn't the right time,” Vaughn said. “I missed the high school setting. I — actually my whole family — missed Sterlington. Sometimes you really don't know how good things are until you step away for a little while. We're blessed in Ouachita Parish — at Sterlington, period — to have the educational system we have.
“I'm back in my original role and very excited about it.”
Vaughn would agree that L. Frank Baum, writer of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” got it right when he said, “There is no place like home.”