The most telling sign that someone has coached a long time is if that person has coached the children of their former players.
Sam Wilson coached football at Hatley High School from 1976-1982. He is now coaching there again, 27 years later.
The football wisdom Wilson has compiled over the years, with a stint in the Mississippi Delta and stops at South Pontotoc, Nettleton and North Pontotoc, has paid off for Hatley in 2009.
Hatley is 5-2 (1-0 Division 1-2A) and ranked fifth in the Daily Journal’s small schools’ rankings heading into tonight’s rescheduled home game against Bruce (0-6, 0-1).
When comparing the current mark to their records in recent seasons, it seems like Wilson has already worked wonders within the program.
The Tigers have won only three games in the last five seasons, going winless in 2007 and 2005.
“We tried to go back and start with the basics and work our way forward, and try to teach our kids how to compete in not only games but with each other during practices and so forth,” Wilson said.
Prior to this season, the 60-year-old coach had been out of football for 13 years, serving as a high school principal in Smithville.
In May, he decided to retire from his principal’s post. Forty-five days after retiring, he became eligible to coach and teach part time even though he would still be considered a retiree in the Monroe County School District.
He then jumped at the opportunity to coach at Hatley, and now he gets his mornings off, coming in at 12:30 to teach and then coach football.
“It’s a different kind of challenge,” Wilson said of his new job duties. “You’re building a relationship with kids.
“You are still the man, but it’s in a different situation when you’re the coach. It’s more hands on, and you’re not just sitting there and enforcing things like a principal would.”
So far the transition to Hatley has been smooth and the support has been there for the longtime coach.
“I didn’t really know them that well as far as personnel,” Wilson said of his new team. “I’ve been there before. I coached a lot of these kids’ parents, their dads.
“I think that gave me a leg up as far as somebody new coming in to coach there.”
Hatley has scored 229 points this season, while surrendering only 50.
“Most of any offense’s success begins up front,” Wilson said. “We’ve been in the process of developing an offensive line since the beginning of the year.
“We’ve been able to play a lot of people in the backfield, and I think that helps some by keeping guys fresh.”
What has also helped Hatley is its schedule. The Tigers’ wins have come against teams with a combined 6-26 record after last Friday.
“The kids were hungry for some success of any kind,” Wilson said. “They learned a whole lot.
“We’re not where we need to be consistently to be a good football team. We’re getting there.
“We’re just taking them one at a time. I know that’s an old coaches cliché, but we’re still learning.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal