By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
David Bradberry’s retirement after 34 seasons of coaching football lasted one year.
The 57-year-old assistant director for the Mississippi High School Activities Association plans to return to the sidelines in 2010 to lead the Tupelo High School Golden Wave.
Bradberry, who compiled a 183-77 record in 22 seasons as a head coach for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Clinton and Greenwood, replaced Eric Collins in December as the THS chief.
Bradberry, who will complete his duties with the MHSAA in February, will start full-time March 1 at THS.
He was in town this week and sat down with the Journal for a question and answer session.
Q: What was it about the Tupelo job that interested a former coach into coming out of retirement?
A: “You look at it and know how successful Tupelo’s been over the years. You know it’s a diamond in the rough. The school system, the city, and all that goes into making a school, I think is the thing that excited us about it.
“I enjoy coaching football and the opportunity to do this came up, and when it did, (wife) Rose and I looked at it and said: ‘That’s a great opportunity.”’
Q: What did you miss most about coaching during your year working for the Mississippi High School Activities Association?
A: “I just enjoy watching kids playing football and watching them get better. I’m hoping that when they leave they’re going to be better people.”
Q: What’s going on in the THS football program while your finishing up with the MHSAA?
A: “All the other coaches are involved with the offseason work and continuing on weight training and speed training. We’ve not had a lot of time to talk offense and defense. We’ve just talked in general about getting the players to concentrate on grades, making sure they’re working, getting better and stronger. When I get in here, we’ll have a chance to sit down and talk about things on the board, and put in place those things we’ll be looking at this spring.”
Q: You met with the players for the first time recently. What was your message to them? What can they expect from you?
A: “The first thing I wanted to do was see them face-to-face and give them a chance to see me. I had them about 30 minutes, not a long time to learn a lot about me. I tried to stress to them the importance of doing the right thing. The need to win is always there, but the need to do things right, I think, is more important. As long you’re working, doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to be making improvements.
“Through the course of the spring, I think I’ll get to learn a face and a name. On March 1 they’ll have a chance to deal with me on a daily basis and we’ll go from there.”
Q: What’s the status of the current coaching staff and will there be any changes made?
A: “I’ve met with the staff and I like them. I think they’re hard-working guys, energetic and seem to know a lot about football. At the end of the spring, they may or may not like what’s going on here.
“I’m going into spring trying to get ready for next fall. It’s not geared that in four weeks we’ll make a (staff) change. I’m hoping all these guys can look at me and say, ‘I think he’s going to be a positive influence on this program,’ and that we can all work together and be productive. They’re working right now to make Tupelo better.”
Q: What are some of the things your hoping to accomplish during spring practice (15 days, 10 of those in pads) which will be your first opportunity to see your team on the practice field?
A: “We’re not coming in here and upsetting the apple cart. I’ll look and see what they do that I like. I’ll see about bringing in some ideas we’ve done at other places that have been successful.
“What we want to accomplish in the spring is to determine who are the leaders in this group, also, what are we capable of doing. We may have some thoughts and ideas, then look at them in the spring with pads on and see that we may not be able to do that. We want to find out how good we are blocking and tackling, who are our athletes, who the guys who will play hard when the chips are down.”
Q: What are your summer plans, including 7-on-7 play, for this team? How critical will these workouts be in preparing for this fall?
A: “The spring is the first step in getting ready for the summer. I think 7-on-7 is something we will continue to do. The kids today are much more advanced than they were 20 years ago in the passing game. Overall, the knowledge is better and the coaching is better.
“We want to get faster and stronger in the summer. We also want to work on our schemes and things that will help us in the 7-on-7 offensively and defensively … things we can put on the field on Friday nights this fall.”
Q: What’s you philosophy on setting offensive and defensive schemes?
A: “I think you look at your personnel, offensively and defensively, to see what you’re capable of doing. Just because you see it on Sunday doesn’t mean you can do that. You’ve got to take what you have and make it fit what you’re doing.
“I’m not for changing every other year, but you’ve got to be able to make your schemes work. On defense, you’ve got to be able to tackle. You’ve got to put people over there who can run and get to the football, and be mad when they get there.
“Offensively, you’ve got to look for playmakers, people who can put points on the board. You’ve got to be able to control the ball, move the chains. You’ve got to control the turnover war. It’s hard to win when you turn the ball over.”
Q: Today’s high school athletes have cell phones, social networking accounts, i.e., Facebook, MySpace, and are mostly products of an “everybody gets a trophy” for participating society. Is it tougher to discipline today’s players?
A: “We’ve all tried to adapt. Everybody’s adjusted. It’s a more modern world. Thirty-five years ago, nobody wore earrings. Now they might. I’m one that looks at the school policy. We’re not going to go against our school policy dealing with these things.
“… From a discipline standpoint, we’re not going to have a lot of rules. We’re going ask them to do the right thing, be on time, play hard and respect the game. I think that’s a big part of it. I want them to respect their team and respect their opponents.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org