November 19, 2010 8:45:00 AM
Chemistry is a key for every head coach.
As important as it is to have players who buy into a vision or a philosophy, it is just as crucial to have assistant coaches who complement the person in charge and help set the direction for the program.
Michael Bradley hoped he had assembled a group that would work toward that end when he took over the New Hope High School football program in 2006.
Four years later, there has been only one key change on a staff that has helped transform the Trojans into one of the area''s top programs.
"I have a great bunch of guys who are passionate about what they do," Bradley said. "They are very goal oriented. They like one another. They''re very conscientious and they are concerned about more than just winning football games. We all share a common goal. We''re not only in the business of trying to win football games, but we''re trying to win men. We''re trying to make these guys become young me. Life lessons are just as important to the New Hope football program as having more points on the scoreboard than the other team."
Bradley, who worked as the head coach at Mooreville and Pearl River Central before taking the job at New Hope, brought together a staff that included Jacob Owen, Matt Keith, Bob Reeves, and Tony Odom. Former New Hope football coach Dale Hardin, who is now the school''s athletic director, joined the staff after the 2006 season. Since then, the coaches have blended their years of experience to help Bradley, who considers himself a "consultative decision-maker" keep the Trojans marching.
"You hope you can get a group of guys that will work well together, that will like each other, that will get along, that will take constructive criticism, that can do all of the little things that you ask of them when you call on them and say, ''Hey, I need some help,'' " Bradley said, "instead of griping and complaining about it. They are like, ''I will be right there. What do you need me to do? Is that what I thought we would get? That is what I hoped for. It all just worked out for us. It is a very good complement of personalities. We have a good combination of some really passionate, high-strung personalities combined with some passive, more laid-back personalities. They blend and mesh well together."
Owen agrees with Bradley that the relationships the coaches have built have allowed them to work so well together. He said Bradley set the tone from the start by telling the players they have to do the right thing. The assistant coaches then worked to implement that mind-set on and off the field.
"The right thing to do is to come to work every day with the intention to work your butt off to be the best you can be," Owen said. "If you''re not doing that, you''re not going to be the best. We have been fortunate to have kids who were man enough to accept that and go with it and make the right choices."
Consistency has been the key to maintaining the success. As a result, the coaches have earned the respect of the players, and the players have learned to police themselves in an attempt to live up to that standard.
"The second-year seniors who made that decision to kind of start doing things our way a little more, I think they''re the ones who are responsible for starting us going in the right direction," Owen said. "That next group really went full circle with it."
All of the assistant coaches agree they have learned a lot from Hardin, who has been at the school since 1981. He worked as head football coach early in the 1990s and then again from 2001-05. He admitted he thought he was through with coaching until Bradley asked him to join his staff as defensive coordinator. The Trojans'' tenacity on that side of the ball probably most reflects the example the coaches have established: New Hope isn''t the biggest, tallest, or strongest group, but it will do its best to outwork and to outthink you.
"We all work together real well," Hardin said. "These guys are young and enthusiastic. They are good coaches now and are going to be excellent coaches later on."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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