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Coach of the Year Hinson always seeking improvement

Timber Creek football coach Rob Hinson couldn't help himself.

Timber Creek football coach Rob Hinson couldn't help himself.

Less than 24 hours after Hinson saw his team complete a 12-0 season with a 33-7 win over Hammonton in the South Jersey Group 3 final, he already had an eye on the next prize.

"I was thinking about what we did and if there was anything we could have done better and what we could do for next year," Hinson said.

Not too many coaches strive to improve on perfection, especially so shortly after reaching the top, yet Hinson, The Inquirer's South Jersey Football Coach of the Year, has never allowed complacency to creep into his mind-set or his football program.

And it's one reason why the Chargers have become one of South Jersey's biggest success stories. This was just the 11th year of the football program. Hinson joined it in the sixth season. During those first five years, the Chargers won a total of 14 games.

After going 4-6 his first season, Hinson hasn't been below .500 since. This was the Chargers' second title-game appearance, having lost by 23-17 to Hammonton in going 9-3 in 2009. He is 41-23 at Timber Creek and 46-28 overall.

Hinson coaches the way he played, with a hard-hitting, but fair style. A 1989 graduate of Camden, he was a starting cornerback, known to pack a pop on any opposing player.

"He was a good hitter," said Willingboro coach Reggie Lawrence, who not only was Hinson's teammate at Camden but also is his first cousin. "He is an organized, very detailed person and very demanding of his players."

Hinson makes no apologies for the demanding part. For the past 18 years, he has been a member of the Air Force Reserve and Air Force National Guard. He is a master sergeant in the Delaware Air National Guard with more than 21 years of combined military service.

Hinson uses a military-type discipline for his team.

It means that players dress uniformly: Everybody wears black sweatshirts under uniforms in cold weather; no head wear under the helmet. Each player is on the same page, one scripted by the coach.

Timber Creek players have benefited from the rigid structure. They have realized that underneath that stern exterior is a compassionate person.

"He is wonderful and is like a father to everybody on the team, not just a select few," said Timber Creek all-American linebacker Quanzell Lambert. "He has changed everybody's life tremendously."

Is there a better testament than that?

No doubt that Hinson is a fierce competitor and the wins and losses and, yes, championships, truly matter. Yet he feels he has a greater role.

That's why Hinson doesn't hesitate when asked about his greatest satisfaction in coaching.

"Seeing my guys in college," he said. "We all want to win and have to win to be considered successful, but a big strength to me is making sure these youngsters have a bright future."

And it's not just the top recruits, such as Lambert, for whom Hinson works tirelessly. He'll spend just as much time dealing with Division III recruiters on behalf of his players.

"I love it, and it doesn't seem like much work," he said.

Football has long been part of his family. His uncle Andy Hinson was the head coach at Camden from 1972-74 before becoming a college head coach at Bethune-Cookman and Cheyney.

"Football has been in our blood," Rob Hinson said.

Hinson paid his dues, serving as an assistant coach at four high schools before going 5-5 in his only year as a head coach at Salem, in 2005. He then came to Timber Creek, where he had a vision to take this program to new heights.

It's a vision that allows Hinson only to look forward, which is why the 2012 season is already well within his view.