MARTIN – Westview High head coach Don Coady will enter territory as a head coach not many in rural West Tennessee have entered when he leads the Chargers for the 25th season.
“Some days it feels like 125 years,” said Coady, whose time coaching is locally surpassed only by University School of Jackson head coach Mickey Marley (27 years). “Time goes by pretty fast. Right now it seems like summer flies by.”
Having already coached 24 seasons at Westview gives Coady the experience to allow everyone in the program to have confidence in him to know how to get things done with the current personnel set the Chargers bring back this year.
That includes quarterback Dallas Callins, receiver Parker Beal, fullback Tyler Langley, defensive lineman Quasay Chandler and a group of other players who helped Westview to a District 13-AA runner-up finish a year ago.
The Chargers up front may not have the size some of Coady’s past teams have had, that that could cause some players to play new positions as Coady and his coaching staff figure out the best place to put everybody that gives the team the best chance to succeed.
It’s like a puzzle that has helped some teams exceed expectations set outside the program in the past.
“We’ve had several teams I won’t say exceeded expectations but maybe played above their innate abilities,” Coady said. “One of those teams might be 2013.
“That team was not blessed with lot of extra ability or anything but played really well and had good chemistry. The kids were not selfish, and that’s not to say others weren’t. We just managed to get results out of that team.”
The team Coady referred to made it to the Class 3A quarterfinals and was a late miracle play at Lewis County away from making it to the semifinals.
Coady admits when he took the head coaching job in 1991, after serving as an assistant coach at Westview then Henry County, he didn’t intend to stick around for a quarter century.
“My original intention was to get head coaching experience and then get into a AAA school, but things worked out well,” Coady said. “Westview turned out to be good place to work.
“I got lucky in hiring good assistant coaches over years had a lot of good kids here.”
One obvious question typically asked of coaches who have been around awhile is how much the game has changed since they started coaching. Coady pointed out three significant changes that have happened in rural West Tennessee high school football.
•Diversification of offenses and defenses. There aren’t many teams remaining that are committed to one set. Coady said a team would have one or maybe two series of plays in one offensive package, and now teams have two if not three or four. Defensive fronts now look different from play to play now, and there’s a lot better special teams play across the board.
“Most high school teams were terrible in the kicking game 25 years ago, and that was something we made a point of being good at,” Coady said. “Now a lot of teams are a lot better at it.”
•More good teams in the area. Coady credits the probability there’s more parity between schools now that some of the teams who weren’t so good two or three decades ago have managed to catch up and become competitive with the more traditionally good programs. Because of this, Coady said there’s probably more pressure within each community to be competitive.
•Coaching staff size. Coady credits legendary coach John Hooper as one of his mentors as he worked with him as a volunteer assistant when Hooper was at Chester County. He said when Hooper took his first job as a head coach, it was when he was right out of college, and “he wasn’t hired as the head coach but the coach. He was the only one.” By the time Coady took over at Westview, coaching staffs had grown to three to five. Now Westview’s staff of six is on the lower end of the coaching size spectrum in Class 3A.
Along with changes, Coady has obviously seen plenty of student-athletes come through the field house at Westview.
Two of the more memorable ones are probably Chad Clifton and Justin Harrell, two linemen who went on to play college ball at Tennessee and made it to the NFL to play for the Green Bay Packers. Harrell was on the team in 2001 when Westview made it to the state championship game.
Coady doesn’t take credit for either one of them getting to play pro football, citing genetics for size and their ability to continue to learn and improve enough in college to become attractive enough for the Packers’ front office.
He doesn’t even consider that one of his biggest accomplishments as the head coach at Westview.
“Westview isn’t a feeder program, because that’s not what high school football is about,” Coady said. “It’s important for all of us to keep in mind that interscholastic athletics is part of the overall education experience.
“Our primary concern should be making kids becoming productive citizens. When you get into competitive sports, you want to win as much as possible, but the preparation for that is where the kids really learn what they need to learn to later be productive members of society.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751