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Small Schools All-Area: Nicholson leads Starkville Academy to state title


Adam Minichino



STARKVILLE -- Real is better. 


Chase Nicholson has been coaching long enough to know he can't fool his players. That's why he didn't try to mold his personality into the traditional perception of a football coach. He also tries to employ the same honest, energetic approach he uses as an Advanced Placement government/government economics teacher on the football field because he knows his players will be able to tell if he isn't genuine. 


"The real-life story is usually better than the movies," Nicholson said. "I don't know why they think they always need to change them up." 


If that means some people feel Nicholson is cocky, that's fine because Nicholson works with a positive attitude that dares his players not to believe they can accomplish anything they set their mind to. 


There is no better example than the 2017 season. While Starkville Academy had plenty of talent, the Volunteers didn't have awe-inspiring size or speed. Instead, they relied on a team-first concept that required all 40 players to buy in, to play a role, and to give their all every play. To the credit of Nicholson and his coaching staff, the Volunteers did just that. The final step came in a 21-14 overtime victory against Indianola Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA State title game Nov. 18 at Jackson Academy. The win helped the Volunteers cap a 13-1 season with their ninth-straight win and the program's seventh state title. 


For his accomplishment, Nicholson is The Dispatch Small Schools All-Area Coach of the Year. 


Nicholson said he remembers wishing his coaches would have been more honest with him. He said a direct approach is essential especially in a marathon that is a season that starts in April and lasts through November. Nicholson said his decision to be open and honest with his players tells them he expects them to be the same way.  


"I want them to trust me. I want them to respect me," Nicholson said. "I think trust leads to respect and leads to leadership." 


Nicholson played football at Newton Academy. He said he had six football coaches in six years at the school. Nicholson also had a different baseball coach in all six years at Newton Academy. He said he knew when he was 16 years old he wanted to be a coach. At the same time, he decided loyalty would be a pillar to his philosophy. 


Once Nicholson became a coach, he said he learned to take pieces from everyone and to mold into his style. He said former Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrill taught him a lot of valuable lessons he still uses today. 


"Arrogance and confidence," said Nicholson, who became head coach in December 2014. "I have never been one not to have those two things. I never felt I had an abundance of either one of them, so it was a good balance. 


"I am not going to go into a football game thinking I am going to lose. It is not being arrogant or overly confident. It is just my personality. If we are going to play it, we're going to win it. If we're not going to win it, why play it? This is why we're going to win. This is how we win it. We'll do this and this is why we will win." 


Nicholson prefers to take a positive approach in his practices and his conversations with his players. Instead of saying his team isn't going to win because it lacks size or speed, he turns it and says the Volunteers are going to win because they will have tremendous effort or they are going to outwork their opponent. 


Senior quarterback/defensive lineman Noah Methvin has worked closely with Nicholson the last few years, so he has a great understanding of what motivates his head coach. He said Nicholson's confidence is contagious and helped the Volunteers buy into the team-first notion that allowed the squad to capture the program's seventh state championship. 


"We know we're going to win," Methvin said prior to the state title game against Indianola Academy. "It is kind of one of those things where it is like we have so much confidence in ourselves that there really is no other way to look at it." 


Nicholson made an impression immediately after he was hired to replace Terrill. After watching and listening to Nicholson, Methvin said he pulled teammate Colt Chrestman aside and said, "Man, coach Nicholson is real cocky." Chrestman disagreed and told Methvin that is just the way Nicholson operates. Nearly four years later, Methvin agrees with Chrestman that Nicholson isn't cocky and that his confidence rubs off on everybody. 


Methvin said Nicholson shakes hands with all of the students every morning when they walk past his classroom. He said the time and effort Nicholson takes and makes enables him to connect with not only football players but also every student. 


"On a personal level, that is where the trust is really made," Methvin said. "He cares about us as individuals. He shakes our hands at school. He really talks to us to figure out how our day has been. When we get on the field, the trust we already have had bonded kind of wins over on the practice field, and it goes from the practice field onto the game field." 


Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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