A Q&A with GPS Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee Robbie Williams

Behind every great school athletic program are those who ensure the athletes stay healthy and fit for performance. After a bad ankle injury sidelined him in ninth grade, Robbie Williams turned to student managing and earned himself a scholarship to UTC for athletic training. In 1996, he accepted an employment offer from the Center for Sports Medicine to serve as the first full-time athletic trainer at GPS; for two-plus decades, he was the only athletic trainer for the Bruisers. Among other honors, in 2020, Robbie was recognized as the Tennessee State Sandy Sandlin High School Athletic Trainer of the Year, and in 2021 the Southeast Athletic Trainers Association Clinical/Industrial/Corporate Athletic Trainer of the Year. In addition to his role at GPS, Williams served as the coordinator of athletic training at the Center for Sports Medicine, where he supervised 15 athletic trainers; from 2010-2021, he also worked as an athletic trainer for the Chattanooga Football Club. 

Q. What do you do in your free time? 
A. I enjoy watching sports and movies on television. I enjoy attending live sports events such as Chattanooga Football Club and attending events at GPS to visit Michael Loving, the current athletic trainer, and my other friends at GPS. I enjoy doing activities with my family. My health issues and time away from them for so many days makes me appreciate them even more. I enjoy visiting with my mother and spending time with her, appreciating that she is still here and very sharp. Many of my friends have lost their parents, so I appreciate her and my aunts and uncles that are able to be here today. 

Q. Looking back on your time at GPS, what do you remember most fondly? 
A. I have many fond memories of GPS. I was fortunate to be at GPS at a time when athletic teams were very successful. I was able to be part of many state championship teams over the years and share in celebrating their victories as well as console them in their defeats. 

One team that stands out is the 2014 softball team. After Randy Tucker was killed in an auto accident, the team made it a mission to win the state championship and fought their way through the season and the tournament. They were in the loser’s bracket and had to beat Baylor twice to win the championship. We won the first game and barely had time to go to Jason’s Deli to eat before the second game. Of course Baylor was at the deli as well. But the girls fought and won the second game, securing the championship. What a celebration that night! 

My most fond memories are the friends that I made at GPS. Thousands of athletes over twenty-five years, the coaches, parents, administrators and GPS family. Many of them I still connect with today. I still enjoy attending GPS events to see my friends. Two examples of my GPS friends are Susan Crownover and Beverly Blackwell, who I have known since their freshman year of college, over 35 years ago. Susan played basketball for UT Chattanooga and was very good. Susan’s Mom always reminded me of making Susan come in on Christmas Day to do rehab for her knee. Susan and her Mom have never let me forget that. 

Many of you do not know this but Beverly Blackwell was a student athletic trainer at UTC and we worked together on the athletic training staff many years ago. 

Randy Tucker was another very important person to me. We had many conversations in his golf cart about family, our daughters, and life in general. During one of those conversations, he encouraged me to have my oldest daughter, Jennie, go through the admissions process when she was in the fifth grade. Jennie graduated in 2017 and Sydnie is now in the eleventh grade at GPS. 

But I truly believe it was the people that I met and the friends that I made that made GPS such a special place. 

Q. Who else has had an impact on your career?
A. I would like to recognize my wife, Angie, and my daughters, Jennie (class of 2017) and Sydnie (2025) for allowing me to do this job over the years. I had to sacrifice a ton of time away from them to be able to take care of the athletes at GPS. Late nights, weekends, and holidays were sacrificed to be able to do what I love. 

Q. Did you always think you would stay at GPS as long as you did?
A. I was assigned by Bob Nevil and the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics to work daily with the athletes at GPS in the winter of 1996. I thought that I would probably be at GPS for two to three years and then move on. But I grew to love this school and the people and was blessed to remain for 25 years. 

GPS is a special place to me. I loved working at GPS and taking care of the athletes. I appreciate the Center for Sports Medicine for allowing me to work at this wonderful place. And I appreciate that my daughters not only received the best education but that they love being GPS girls. Jennie went on to graduate with honors from Young Harris College and Sydnie is now having her best high school experiences as a junior in these halls. 

As you get older, you look back at key moments in your life. One of those moments for me was that friendly conversation in a golf cart with Randy Tucker. This conversation changed my life and my family’s life for the better. Thank you everyone at GPS for allowing me to be a member of this family. Here’s to the girls.