At 76, most people are thinking about how to spend their retirement.
That won’t do for Glenn Falls.
Falls, who has been coaching for 52 years, recently was named the girls basketball coach at Martin Luther King because the two jobs he already had — coaching volleyball at Glencliff and being in charge of coordinated school health and lifetime wellness for the Metro Board of Education — weren’t providing enough of a challenge.
“It’s kind of nice. It gives you an additional challenge,” Falls said. “I just love the sport, and I’ve been out of it three or four years so I thought with an opportunity like this, let me give it a shot and see how things go.”
A lifetime of sports
Falls’ love of sports started early in life.
“I’ve been involved in sports since 1945 when I was a mascot at Joelton and my sister was a basketball player,” he said. “So I’ve either been coaching or trying to boss people around at how to get better at whatever it is since then.”
In order to turn that into a profession, Falls earned his bachelors and masters degrees in physical education from the University of Tennessee before going on to pick up his doctorate at Tennessee State.
After beginning his teaching career with a two-year stint at Cumberland High School, Falls moved to Burton Elementary, now Lipscomb Academy, to take over as football coach for the 1963-64 season.
After two undefeated seasons, Falls coached and taught at four more schools before finally arriving at Glencliff.
As a volleyball coach, Falls has more than 1,200 wins and made 14 state tournament appearances, with the 1986 state title and a state runner-up finish. He spent 29 seasons with the Glencliff girls basketball program, compiling a 460-297 record before retiring after the 2011-12 season.
Falls turned out to be a better coach than he was a player.
“I played basketball and I was not very good at it,” Falls said. “I couldn’t dribble without looking at the ball. I stole the ball at a time when there was no such thing as a press defense and when I looked up there was no goal because I had run past it.”
Falls ranks his 1986 volleyball state championship as the pinnacle of his career — not for the personal achievement, but for what his girls were able to accomplish together.
“I think that’s the only time I ever shed tears… because the girls had so much success,” Falls said. “That was the high point of my career, I guess.”
Falls is just as well-known for touching the lives of his players off the court.
“He was more than a coach to us,” former player Darlene Crawley-Morrow said. “We called him Papa Falls and Dad Falls. Everybody that played for him calls him that.”
“When you say educator and coach, my first thought is Glenn Falls,” said Terry Watkins, a Glencliff Special Olympics coach and 20-year colleague of Falls. “He has a significant impact on his players. They all just love him.”
Sometimes it took his players a while to realize they loved him.
“Let’s just say when we first met, we didn’t always agree on everything,” former player Marlo Lavender-Smith said. “But I came to realize later on that what he was trying to do was for my betterment. Not only was he the kind of person who wanted to teach you on the court, but he was always trying to teach you life lessons off the court as well.
Although he could be tough, there were times when Falls’ coaching antics kept his players laughing.
“I remember him being … in a chair because he was being too stern on his players and not only did he continue to coach, he continued to coach with the chair on his butt bouncing up and down the sidelines,” former player Tyan Cook said.
Despite his age, Falls swims regularly and plays badminton with his friends.
“He’s an amazing guy,” Watkins said. “He’s in better shape than I am, and I just turned 54 … I think a lot of it has to do with his (physical education) background and his healthy style.”
Falls said he owes his youth to the passion he has for what he does and those he works with.
“I love coaching, and if I’m not coaching, I love watching sports,” he said. “I guess being around kids and schools keeps me young.”
As for what he will do when he does eventually decide to hang up his whistle for good, Falls said he is looking to settle down.
“I guess I’m going to start a family,” he said, laughing. “I guess if I don’t get started it’s going to be too late.”
Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.
GLENN FALLS AT A GLANCE
Positions: Glencliff volleyball 1981-present, Glencliff girls basketball 1983-2012, MLK girls basketball June, 2015-present
Volleyball record and achievements: 1,163-214, 25 district championships (including 22 straight), one state runner-up, 1986 state champions
Basketball record and achievements: 460-297, 12 district championships (including 11 straight), two state tournament appearances, one state runner-up
College background: BS and MS from The University of Tennessee, EdD from Tennessee State