Doug Dershimer and his family have lived in southern Forsyth County since 1993, more than 16 years before Lambert High School opened. When the school was being built, he would take his three daughters and the family’s poodle for walks through the construction, and they would picture what would eventually be the halls, or the cafeteria, or the gymnasium.
Years before that, back when he was in high school, Dershimer made a commitment to himself. He went to Lake Brantley High School, near Orlando, where he played baseball and basketball. Dershimer wondered, though, why more people in the community didn’t come out to events.
“I just kind of thought, ‘When I get older, when I have the opportunity to go support the local school, I’m going to do it,’” Dershimer said.
In the nine years that Lambert has existed, Dershimer has sent three daughters — twins Kat and Liz, and now younger sister Caroline — through the school. He also estimated that he’s been to more than 650 games, including 145 in the past year. He’s fulfilled the commitment he made, and, in the process, has become as much of a part of the school as the beams that he watched go up.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Longhorns athletic director Drew Ferrer said. “He’s become a close friend to a lot of us.”
Dershimer has always been a sports fan. He remembers watching baseball on Saturday afternoons on ABC, and he formed fond memories Atlanta early on, often traveling north to visit an uncle and go to Hawks and Braves games. That’s part of why he moved to the area after graduating from Florida State in 1984.
It wasn’t for a job. Dershimer has worked in recruiting for most of his professional life, and he currently owns SLP School Staffing, a company that contracts speech-language pathologists to schools in states like California, Ohio and Texas. He doesn’t have any clients in Georgia, and he works from home, roughly two miles away from Lambert. That job-based flexibility — along with plenty of flexibility from his wife, Lisa — lets Dershimer be at Lambert whenever he needs to be.
“I have a fantastic wife,” Dershimer said. “She’s the love of my life, and she’s awesome, and she’s allowed me to be away a little bit more than most people are.”
Dershimer went to games around the county before Lambert opened, and he’s known Tom Bass, an assistant principal and former assistant baseball coach at the school, since before the school opened. But Dershimer remembers his passion for high school sports getting particularly serious in 2012, around the time the Longhorns boys soccer program was making a run to its first state championship.
Since then, Dershimer has been around as much as he can, almost always in school regalia, some of which he gets custom-made. It’s partly because of the friendships he’s formed with Bass, Ferrer, and Lambert principal Gary Davison. It’s partly because of how many athletes he knows through his daughters and other family friends. But there’s also a part that Dershimer can’t quite explain.
“It just happened,” he said. “I enjoyed it, started remembering when I played, and wanting to support the kids, and I would just keep going.”
He’s certainly not an uninformed fan. Dershimer goes to practices, too, and Longhorns boys basketball head coach Scott Bracco estimated that he’s seen Dershimer at more than 50 over the years.
“I like to go to practices and watch them,” Dershimer said. “Because when I got to practice and watch them, I know what’s going to happen in the game.”
In the countless game that Dershimer has watched, one thing has been missing: his family. His daughters played softball growing up, and Liz (CHECK) played on the Longhorns’ feeder program, but they all dropped the sport before getting to high school. They’ve opted instead for equestrian, which they did as a club sport in high school and which Liz and Kat now do at the University of North Georgia, and sideline cheerleading, which Caroline has done.
Dershimer wishes he could have seen his daughters play in a Lambert uniform, but that hasn’t detracted him from supporting their activities.
“He’s never missed one of Kat and I’s horse shows,” Liz Dershimer said. “He’ll come to our lessons, he’ll go to Caroline’s cheerleading practices … His life is his kids, and his wife, and Lambert, and his business.”
This upcoming year will present a significant change for Doug. Caroline is graduating on Tuesday, so he’ll no longer have the connection of having a child at Lambert. He’ll still know some families — like that of Brooke Miller, a star softball player for the Longhorns — but not as many.
And he can see a scenario where he’s around the school a bit less because of that.
“I don’t plan on it,” Dershimer said. “But with the natural progression of things, I don’t know how it’s going to work out.”
Regardless of what Dershimer chooses to do in the next year, he’ll have a presence in Lambert sports as long as Bracco is coaching. The pair often talks basketball strategy, and Dershimer gave Bracco a play three years ago, one that Bracco calls “The Dersh.”
“When we need a bucket, we’ll call it out,” Bracco said.