May 28, 2013 10:25:26 PM
STARKVILLE - New Starkville Academy baseball coach Jody Britt is well aware of the athletic tradition for the Volunteers.
It is the main reason why he accepted the job.
Britt was introduced Tuesday at the school and quickly got to work holding a light workout with his new players. A summer schedule begins Thursday night when Starkville Academy goes next door to play a game at Starkville High School.
"Everyone around the state knows what is going on athletically right now at the school," Britt said. "That is what made this an appealing position. We want the baseball program to be mentioned right along with the other elite programs at the school."
Britt replaces Neal Henry, who spent four successful seasons with the Volunteers and is now working at a hitting facility in Florida.
"If you follow academy baseball, you know what type of success Coach Henry had here," said Britt, who will also coach junior high football. "They were basically on the doorstep of playing for two different state championships and that says a lot. With any coaching change, there will be subtle changes in philosophy. We want to get the most out of the kids and we want to put the program in a position where when other teams look at the schedule and see our name, they know they are going to be in for a challenge."
Starkville Academy finished the 2013 season with a 16-11 overall record. The Volunteers lost to Greenville Washington in the semifinal round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II state playoffs. A year before, the Volunteers fell to Magnolia Heights Academy in the state championship series. Magnolia Heights has since won back-to-back state championships.
Starkville Academy athletic director Glenn Schmidt thinks Britt is the right man to build on that success.
"When you hire a math teacher, you want someone who is passionate about math," Schmidt said. "The same holds true with a baseball coach. You want someone who can explain their passion for the game. You can tell Jody has that passion. He has all the right attributes to be a successful teacher and successful coach."
The 28-year-old Britt spent the past season as an assistant coach at Warren Central High School. Prior to that, he spent three seasons as head coach at Bogue Chitto High School.
"What set him apart was that enthusiasm," Schmidt said. "He also had head coaching experience at a school similar to our size. I thought that was very important."
Britt also had a lengthy and successful playing career. At Loyd Star High School, Britt was a first-team all-state selection in baseball, as well was as a state champion golfer. His collegiate career included a playing on a World Series-participant team at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, as well as being a two-time all-conference performer at Mississippi College.
"I was real fortunate to have some great experiences and some great influences," Britt said. "I have always loved living in a college town. I had been praying for another opportunity to be a head coach. This seems like a really good opportunity and I am excited to get started."
At Starkville Academy, athletic success is a big drawing card right now. The Volunteers have made back-to-back football playoff appearances and played for the state championship in 2011. The girls' basketball team has won back-to-back Class AAA and overall state championships. Baseball has also been close. Now, the Volunteers will try to take the next step.
"This is a special place," said Britt, who is still working to complete his staff. "We are excited to be here. There is a lot to do but we will hit the ground running."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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