“All coaching is, is taking a player where he can’t take himself.”
– Bill McCartney
What motivates a high school football coach? Is it the competition, the challenge, the love of the sport? Is it the desire to shape the lives of young men, or a willingness to pass along valuable lessons to the next generation? Here, we’ve asked 40 local high school football coaches why they’ve chosen their careers – here’s what they said.
Coach Al Rogers
Silverdale Baptist Academy
I want to make a difference in young men’s lives like my coaches did for me. I want my players to have and cherish the memories of a great competitive sport like I do. I want my players to experience the “brotherhood” of a football family that lasts a lifetime. I want my players to know they can call a fellow player or coach, even many years later, if they need help or just want to talk. I want my players to experience the mud, blood, sweat, tears, and exhaustion provided by football and smile about it the next day or 20 years from now. I want my young men to experience a sport that teaches more about real life than any other: It teaches about hard work, responsibility, working together, sacrifice, dedication, and love like no other. And last but certainly not least, they will not leave my program without being asked about their salvation. I want my players to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Coaching has been the best way for me to do what I love: positively influence young people and build lasting relationships with my players, coaches, and community. It also fulfills my competitive nature; winning is inherently important to me, but I believe that the best perspective I can maintain is that winning is important because it increases the influence I have on my players, coaches, and community. The more games we win, the more people want to hear what I have to say about life and how to define success, which accomplishes my ultimate goal: to develop and prepare young men to love their Lord, their family, and their community.
I coach to repay the favor granted to me by my coaches. They taught me toughness, determination, and how to persevere through difficulties. My coaches taught me how to be a man and do the right things. I hope I can pass these learned traits on to my student athletes, thus helping them to be prepared for their future as adults.
When I first got into coaching, it was because I missed being part of a team. I loved the competition. I was always much smaller than everyone else my age, so I felt like I had something to prove. As a coach, you have the chance to set goals, make a plan to achieve those goals, and then see if your plan works. Those things are major reasons why I enjoy coaching. I quickly found out the biggest reason I love coaching, though, is the relationships with players and coaches – it’s the long bus rides, the early morning lifts in the weight room, the blistering heat that we practice in every day. We all have a job to do as part of the team, and other people are depending on you to do your job. We are all going through it together, and we build a special bond.
Coach Josh Roberts
Signal Mountain High School
As coaches, we have a great responsibility to make an impact on the young men in our program. I enjoy seeing a young man come into the program as a freshman, and through the ups, downs, and daily grind, leave as a successful man. While winning is amazing, the relationships and life lessons that are forged in these four years will hopefully last a lifetime and be their greatest victory. I, also, enjoy the feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get on Friday nights when the national anthem is being played, because you know that weeks and months of hard work by your players has prepared them for this moment. It’s a thrill to see the excitement on our players’ faces when they know they get to compete and lay it on the line for each other. This is why I coach.
I didn’t start playing football until I was in sixth grade. I always played baseball; however, football became my first love very quickly. Growing up, I had great coaches, like Tom Weathers and the rest of his staff, along with my father who taught me so much through sports – especially football – that correlates to life. It’s the ultimate team sport that can teach you so much like confidence, hard work, dedication, discipline, teamwork, and selflessness. It also gave me the ability to continue my education in college through a football scholarship and put me on a path to become what I am today. I’ve always felt that by being a coach, I can help kids in learning those life lessons and help them advance their lives through football.
Why I coach – it’s not just one thing; it’s the way I am and the way I was brought up in my life. I grew up playing a wide variety of sports, and I was always coached by my dad, who had such an influence on me. I owe my whole career to Jim Murray. I now coach and teach by the quote, “They don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” I want every one of my players to know, first and foremost, that this is a game, and we need to care about each other and have fun – Coach Jason Fitzgerald taught me that. Coach E.K. Slaughter was always there to help me with the honest hard truth, and Dan Duff will forever be the standard for manhood for which I strive. My love for coaching is tied to these men, and I want to pour into young minds for future generations like they did.
Coach Phil Massey
I love football. It’s the ultimate platform to serve and teach and to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself. Competing as an athlete gets in your blood. As a player, you begin to lose that feeling as you step away from the game. As a coach, that competitive fire comes back and those feelings you had as a player carry on. Some of the most influential people in my life were coaches who unselfishly invested time and energy in me. Sports have played such a major role in my life that as I began thinking about a career, it only made sense for me to pursue coaching. I talk to our kids all the time about pursuing their passions. Find something you enjoy and that you are passionate about. For me, my passion led me to coaching. It is a way for me to pay it forward and to honor those ahead of me who helped shape the person I am today.
I really enjoy being around the kids. Football is something that teaches a great deal of life lessons. Through football, boys learn not only how to win but how to trust others, build relationships, have accountability, work hard, and do things the right way. To be successful in football, you truly have to earn it, and at the end of the day, there is only one champion. The main thing that makes me happy is knowing I coached young men who are now husbands, fathers, businessmen, Christians, and even excellent coaches themselves. I am also very grateful to Coach Robert Akins, who taught me that being a coach is a lot of hard work but can be fun if done the right way. Without his mentorship through the years, I would not be where I am today, doing what I love.
Coach Curt Jones
Chattanooga Central High School
I coach football so that I can be a mentor to young men. I can instruct them in life skills that will teach them how to be good husbands, fathers, and productive members of their community. I coach so that I may instill toughness, structure, and planning skills. I also use my platform as a coach to introduce character and discipline to these young men. Finally, I coach because I love how this game mirrors the peaks and valleys that young men will inevitably face in life. This game shows my players that if they prepare, have a plan, put in the work, and put in the extra reps, they can have success in football … that same holds true for success in life.
I read somewhere that a coach has more influence on a person than anybody except for their parents, but in some cases, even more than their parents. God has given me an opportunity to be a leader who leads from the heart for God’s sake. Here is what that means to me: I have to share the good news that Jesus saves, so we can be in eternity together. I have to show my guys how to love by loving them and showing them the importance of loving others. I have to teach them how to be men who are more concerned with obligations and responsibilities than rights and privileges, who are loving husbands and loving and present fathers. They seek justice, encourage the oppressed, and are the spiritual leader of their families. That’s why I coach!
I am a product of high school football and high school coaches. Coaches have served many roles throughout various stages in my life and continue to be very influential to this day. I coach because I want to invest in the lives of young people and watch them grow and mature into well-adjusted adults who become productive husbands, fathers, employees, and citizens. I have seen firsthand what having belief in a young man can do for him – changing the outcome of his future and future generations. There are so many great things about high school athletics that go unnoticed and overlooked in a “win now” and “win often” society. In my opinion, high school coaches are the epitome of servant leaders, and there are so many great coaches who are such tremendous influences on the young men of today.
Coach Mark Mariakis
Chattanooga Christian School
After 35 years in this calling, in the middle of the craziness and chaos, I have asked that question myself many times. But then I always come back to the same answer – the relationships! I love the game atmosphere, the preparation, and the chess match of strategy, but I have always cherished the relationships within the sport that can’t be matched by any other environment. The relationships with the coaches, players, parents, school, and community give me the drive, energy, and purpose to press through a season that many times can last from May to December; it’s a grind. I see the relationships within a football program parallel with our relationship with the Lord; it requires so much love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. And the challenge of bringing that many groups of people together for one common purpose is the reason I coach. What impacts someone’s life is not wins or trophies, but the relationship you have with them!
I got into coaching to give back to the game that has given me so much. I want everyone to feel the love of being part of something bigger than themselves. I want them to look at their team as a family and to care for the success of their fellow teammates. I coach them hard but love them up even harder. In my opinion, this is our calling and our purpose to make men that will someday lead their community and their families.
Coaching football is all I ever wanted to do. As a small child, I watched Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers and Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. I would read any book on coaching that I could buy or find. I’d arrange plastic men in formations, draw on paper towels, and use blackboards. Then, I started playing football at the age of 9. I played quarterback, and my coach would let me call my own plays. Football was important to me throughout high school. After college, I started coaching football, and 40 years later, I still am. I feel like teaching a child to work hard and not give up is so important today. We live in a soft world, and we expect our kids to be successful. Football – in my opinion – is the best team game there is.
I coach because I love the kids; I love the process of developing young men. I love allowing them to be a part of something that is possibly greater than anything they have been a part of. A kid with a broken home and a wealthy kid can come together and work toward a common goal. Football in general, and the desire for my program, revolve around this concept. At the end of the day, winning football games is important, but developing a better husband and father is MORE important.
Coach Mark Pemberton
Rhea County High School
My dad was a high school coach for 40 years, so at a very young age I was exposed to football and the coaching profession. We were always together, and it seemed like we were always at the football field or field house. I really enjoyed everything about football and the relationships that were built with coaches and players at that time. I respected my dad so much that I knew from a young age that I was going to coach and teach. Now I have been a teacher and coach for 34 years, and my youngest son, Zack, has had the same experiences that I had with my dad. Zack is going to go into coaching and teaching after he finishes playing football in college. I can’t think of a better way to serve others than to coach and teach. We get to do something we love every day.
This will be my 24th year of coaching football. I started coaching because I loved the game. I grew up listening to Herschel Walker scoring touchdowns for Georgia – go Dawgs! After playing four years of college football, coaching was a way for me to stay a part of the game that I was so passionate about. I enjoy everything about the game, from the smell of freshly cut grass in the summer to the freezing Friday nights in November. I enjoy watching young boys become men over the course of four years. I love seeing the band, cheerleaders, and fans support their community and school. Over the years, my reasons for coaching have changed. I’m in my mid-40s now, and I coach to provide a safe environment for kids – a place where they feel like someone cares about them and their future. Football is so much more than a game.
Here are the top 10 reasons why I coach:
1. Helping boys grow and develop into great young men.
2. Loyalty – it binds people together and causes them to put others before themselves.
3. Teaching young men to do more than they ever imagined they could accomplish.
4. Teaching them how to stand and push through in the midst of defeat.
5. Teaching them how to be humble in victory.
6. Teaching them how to set and reach goals.
7. Teaching them that there is no exception for hard work.
8, The 5 Ps (Prior preparation prevents poor performance.)
9. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi
10. “Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” – Cadet Maxim, U.S. Military Academy
Very simply put, I coach to make an impact on a young man and help him be the best husband and daddy he can be one day. Most of the world’s problems are created by a father not being in the home or not enough male influences. That supersedes demographics, gender, socioeconomics, etc. My mission as a coach, and as a man, is to help these young men find their place of influence and give them the tools to be successful on the field – but more importantly off the field. However, what I find is that I have some of the best coaches and players there are, and ultimately, I think I’m also challenged to be better, not just them. I’m very thankful that God chose me for this profession.
Boys are physically, mentally, and emotionally invested in football. That investment makes deep learning possible; I really enjoy walking with the boys through their time at McCallie. Each boy’s experience is unique and is always uneven. They achieve great things and fail miserably. They learn to love their teammates but also behave selfishly. Sometimes they love it, sometimes they don’t. We try to give them what they need individually to grow into responsible and capable men. The greatest pleasure comes when they start to mature and understand things more deeply.
Coach Josh Groce
Gordon Lee High School
There are many reasons why I coach high school football. The number one reason I coach is because I enjoy the ability to help a young man become an outstanding adult in the future. The lessons taught in football prepare players to become great employees and fathers down the road. I guess selfishly I feel like I had a hand in it. Another reason I coach is because of the team atmosphere. It is awesome to watch a bunch of individuals learn to play as a collective whole. I tell the team all the time that a football game is extremely tough to win because every player depends on another player to do his job. When every player on a football team is dependable and willing to do their job every play, great things will happen.
I have been a coach for my entire life. I knew when I was a child that I wanted to be a coach. I have always enjoyed taking a group of kids and helping them develop their skill sets to become a better team. The feeling of seeing a group come together and be a part of something bigger than themselves is very special. Being a coach, I’m always looking for fresh ideas on strategy. It has been said that coaching is a “copycat business.” I will admit that many a play that I call on a Friday night came from watching it on TV on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I also find myself constantly coming across methods that other coaches use to inspire their teams, and I particularly like this quote from Alabama head coach Nick Saban: “What happened yesterday is history. What happens tomorrow is a mystery. What we do today makes a difference …” This is why I coach!
I coach to get young men ready for the challenges of life. Winning football games is very important to me, but there are other priorities such as God, family, and academics. I don’t think they will put my coaching record on my tombstone, but they will sure remember what I did to grow boys into men. A coach’s aspiration should be for grown men to come back and tell them that they changed their lives and set them on the right path. I want great men to come out of my program! I could go 15-0 and not have done this, but I could also go 0-10 (which I have done) and do the job God meant for me to do. To me, this is the essence of all good coaches. I thank God for the great mentors and coaches that made me who I am today!
I believe that the coaching profession is one of the most critical professions in our society. It gives you an opportunity to be involved in the lives of young people, who are the future of our cities and communities. Coaching has evolved so much since I was a player and since I began coaching 20 years ago. It is so much more than just the Xs and Os and strategy to the game. In my opinion, the most important parts are the values that have been around forever. You must develop the trust of your players and staff. How do you do that? It starts with honesty – an organization, team, family, or business must have this in order to be successful. Once you have established honesty, then the trust follows. You must develop relationships with your players and staff that are built upon these characteristics, and these relationships are built off much more than football.
Coach Wayne Turner
I first became interested in coaching when I played football and baseball in high school under Coach Henley. That man had a huge impact on my life and really taught me what it means to be a great coach. You have to enjoy what you do, have patience and flexibility, and you have to treat people with respect. I hope that as a coach, I’m remembered as a caring person who enjoyed what he did. My football boys are my family, and I’m fortunate to have developed lifelong friendships with my players.
I have chosen teaching and coaching as a profession because I feel like that is how I can do the most good with the time I have been given on Earth. I have two wonderful parents who dedicated every resource at their disposal to making sure I had all opportunities to be successful as a person, man, and professional. Through coaching, I have the potential to provide that same stability, encouragement, and discipline to young men who otherwise may not receive it. Being part of a quality football program teaches young adults so much about how to navigate the pitfalls and apexes of life; teamwork and grit are absolute necessities to both. Football is a special game. It’s the most athletic version of chess played in the world. I enjoy the training, strategizing, comradery, and skill set required to play and coach it.
I think there are a couple of reasons that I coach. First, there is something about the gratification of having a 14-year-old young man enter your program with so much doubt and nervous energy and to watch him over the course of four years develop into a young man full of confidence, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of being a part of something special. Second, I love the preparation and the commitment that it takes from so many people. To watch all of that come to a boil on Friday night – it’s a feeling that cannot be replicated.
Coach E.K. Slaughter
Heritage High School
I coach for one reason, and that’s to be a positive impact on the students at Heritage High School, both in our locker room and in the campus halls. I grew up most of my life without a father, and I filled this void with my high school coaches. Now as a father of an 11-year-old son, I am terrified at the possibility that he will get his definition of manhood from the expectations of his peers or the world outside our home. For this reason, I am very intentional with him, as well as our athletes, in defining what true manhood is. There is no better platform to impact lives than coaching high school athletics. Developing quality men is the number one goal of our program, and we are very intentional with these efforts. It is our hope that time spent in our program will make our student athletes better husbands, fathers, and citizens one day.
I coach in order to MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and I coach to be a PARENT to more children than just my own. Nowadays, with the absence of some fathers and/or mothers, our jobs as coaches are even more important. My brother and I were blessed to have two caring parents who loved us, disciplined us when we needed it, and pushed us to do things we never believed we could do. I wish every child had the opportunity to have great parents, but since that’s not always the case, as a coach I can MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Coaching gives me the opportunity to show these players they have parents (or coaches) that care and a family (team) that loves them. As a coach, you’re an adviser, a counselor, a disciplinarian, a taxi driver, a financial supporter, and a caregiver. By modeling this, maybe the kids that we coach will ALL become the parents that many have never had.
I coach because I believe in what this game can teach young men about life. I had so many great experiences as a player, including undefeated region titles and winning a state championship with my dad as my coach, but the things that have made me who I am as a man are the struggles my teammates and I went through to get to those points. I learned how to keep going even when I don’t believe I can by pushing through August practices and 40-yard dashes. I learned how to handle failure with class by losing two state championship games in overtime. I learned how to love the people around me and work for them, not for myself. This game teaches kids so much about becoming a good man, husband, father, etc. I love being able to help guide my players through these lessons and see the men they become later in life.
Coach Tyrus Ward
Brainerd High School
I love young people and enjoy being around them. I’m interested in the direction they are choosing to go in life. I believe that what we are doing can influence that direction. I look forward to convincing them that being a student athlete is training ground for a successful life and that being a great student athlete matters! I love sharing the ups and downs that are a part of the process of life – showing them what genuine love and care looks like. Ultimately, I embrace going to unusual lengths to see that they are able to stay involved in this thing called life.
I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to coach football someday. I love being around any type of athletics. Football has given me so much over the years, and this is my chance to give back to it in a small way.
I love the game, being around the field house, the camaraderie among coaches … but deeper than that, I love helping these young men grow into productive citizens of society, teaching them life skills they will use down the road, teaching them how to be held accountable, and teaching them to own their mistakes as well as their achievements. I enjoy watching them succeed on and off the field. Coaching is not an easy job, but it is very rewarding. All the things I listed above have a downside. Coaches try to shape their players into productive citizens, but sometimes there are a few that have to learn the hard way. But my players know that my door is always open, and I am just a phone call away. I embrace the relationships that are made and look forward to helping them grow.
Coach Charles Fant
Notre Dame High School
I was taught by my parents that the greatest way to thank God for his graces is to serve others. When you want the best for and help other people, you become an example for others to follow. I pray daily that I can help, coach, teach, and mentor someone to make them become a better version of themselves. Coaching gives me this opportunity and is the greatest job I have ever had.
Growing up, I was a military child and constantly on the move; I never lived in one place for longer than three years – the typical military life. Whenever we moved, it was always hard to make friends and try to find out where I fit in. However, my coaches and sports teams always seemed to welcome me with open arms. I became a coach because of the influence my coaches had on me whenever I moved to a new city. They welcome you as part of the family, and they become father figures over time. I will forever be grateful to these men for helping a military brat feel included, pushing me to be my best, and teaching me life lessons along the way, and I hope to do the same in my career. This is why I coach.
There are many reasons why I coach high school football. While I love the competition and the excitement of being under the lights on Friday nights, that is not the main reason I coach. I coach because I want to be an example to young men growing up today. I coach to be a positive influence in the lives of the players on my team. I coach to show them what hard work means and where hard work will take you. My coaching staff fully believes that more important than the Xs and Os or the wins and losses is helping build young men of character, ready to graduate high school and become adults. That is why I coach.
Coach Caleb Bagley
Coahulla Creek High School
I knew from a young age I wasn’t going to be good enough to play football forever, but I wanted to be around the game forever. Being around men like Bill Napier (high school coach), Pete Wiggins and Steve Sparks (high school position coaches), and Stephen Sorrels (college position coach) solidified to me that this is how I want to spend my time on this Earth. I love the relationships you build with players and with other coaches – there is nothing like being a part of the team. I love the “work” that goes into the process: film, practice, the weight room, practice planning, scripting, game planning; I enjoy all of that. What keeps me excited year after year is the competition, whether it’s against another team or against ourselves. Having the chance to compete each and every day to improve a team is what I think drives a lot of coaches.
I coach high school football because I love every aspect of the game, and it helped make me the man I am today. I believe everything starts with relationships. My high school coach, Tim James, was like a second father to me. He always helped me to be accountable and did what was best for me as a person. I didn’t always agree at the time, but I love and respect him for what he did for me. Dabo Swinney says it best: “Serve their hearts, not their talents.” This means to do what needs to be done to help the player become a better person, instead of just trying to win games. I want my players to come back 10 years from now to say thank you and to have the type of relationship that I still have to this day with my high school coach.
I love coaching because I get to be there for my players throughout their high school careers, and I get to watch them grow up into young men. I also enjoy seeing all of the parts of a team work together for a common goal. I love seeing the pure excitement that teammates have for each other when they succeed, both on and off the field. I am very blessed to have worked with so many outstanding players and coaches here at LaFayette.