As a 23-year-old, first-time head high school football coach, Wenstone Nash was a bit nervous how he would be received by his players, and if he would generate the necessary respect level as a younger coach. Three days into official practices leading the Southside football team, Nash said those nerves were unfounded.
“It was immediate,” he said. “And like I said, they made it easy for me. They’re all ears and they want to learn. And they’re working as hard as they can right now.”
Nash has taken a hands-on approach to coaching the Rebels. In Wednesday night’s practice, he jumped into the action and played the role of a defender during a blocking drill, hoping to give his players a better idea of exactly what he was looking for.
He hopes that method of teaching will allow his players to better apply concepts on game day. It’s important as he goes through preseason practices, but he said he’ll be using the same method throughout the season. He wants to show his players how to do things instead of flooding them with excessive football terminology.
“He gets in there and teaches us how to do it,” said junior running back Samuel Nash, Wenstone Nash’s younger brother. “If we don’t know, he’ll get in there and teach us.”
Samuel Nash is one of two of Wenstone Nash’s brothers playing on the team. Nehemiah Nash is a freshman member of the team. Another brother, Chad Nash, serves as an assistant coach.
Since taking over the program, Wenstone Nash has seen a boost in numbers. On the strength of a large group of younger players, he said he has about 63 currently in his program.
Nash said he wants his roster size to continue to increase during the course of his tenure. He plans to maintain an open culture, with anyone welcome to come and observe a practice, which he hopes will lead to more young children deciding they want to play for the Rebels when they reach high school.
“We want to get a feeder system, especially like with the John Frank League that’s going on as well,” he said. “A lot of those kids, you’ll start seeing them, when the year starts, they’re invited to all the practices.”
Nash is taking over for Mike Paul, who coached the Rebels for 35 years and went 151-206 during his long tenure with the team. Nash is himself a Southside alum and a former player for Paul.
He’s inheriting a team that went 6-3 last season, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Pendleton Heights. He will have to replace many of last season’s starters, including quarterback Timber Hatfield and another of his brothers, running back McKenzee Nash.
There will be some changes to the system, Wenstone Nash said, but he’s tight-lipped about exactly what he will be running as he doesn’t want to tip his hand before his team takes the field. Southside opens at Yorktown on Aug. 23.
He will still use a variation of the spread offense, Nash said. And his defense puts a heavy emphasis on preventing big plays for the opponent. And while the Rebels will be led by someone other than Mike Paul, they will be led by someone familiar with the players.
“I was definitely pretty glad,” senior Josh Strauch said of hearing of Nash’s hiring. “Just because I had been with him, and he’s kind of a part of the Southside family.”