Faced with the unenviable task of replacing high school teacher-coaches on an annual basis, Aledo ISD Athletic Director Tim Buchanan (who also dabbles in football head coaching duties for the 4-time state champ Bearcats) looks within the courts, fields and classrooms of the Aledo school district, first.
Preparation for the 2012-13 school year proved to be an organizational chart shuffle from within, but one that is a philosophical fit for the more than two-decade Aledo coach.
“I really believe all coaches should begin their coaching at middle schools,” Buchanan said. “It teaches you how to be a coach, because you are coaching [all positions for the sport] at that level. You are the head coach.
“There is a little more specialization at the freshman football level and a little more than that at the JV level. And by the time you get to the varsity level, we have determined which area or position a coach is most effective.”
The current Aledo varsity staff reflects the method of moving up through the ranks. Robbie Jones began his stint as a middle school boys coach and is now the Bearcats’ offensive coordinator. Rusty Johnson, the head coach for girls basketball, started out at the middle school, also.
Buchanan looks for potential personnel at the lower grade levels with some confidence that the incoming coaches are cognizant of what is going on around them, and that the hard work and perserverence will reap rewards.
“I’m pretty sure the people we hire are aware that many of our coaches at the high school level started at the middle school level,” he said of the new hires. “They know if you’re a good coach and if you have the right teaching field, then you’re going to move to the high school.”
The replacement exercise this summer was a bit more poignant than usual for Coach Buck, who saw one of his long-time coaches move on to another career.
“When the economy starts getting better, sometimes coaches leave for other [types of] jobs,” Buchanan said. “[Daniel] Seay has left coaching and will be working in the medical sales field. He had an opportunity in the profession that, as a young man, he just couldn’t pass up.
“We’re going to miss Daniel. He’s been with me longer than anyone. We hired him initially as a junior high coach and middle school science teacher in 1996. He worked his way up from middle school coaching positions to the varsity football co-defensive coordinator and boys head track coach.”
“It was tough seeing Daniel go — for both of us. Not only was he a good, hard-working coach, but a good friend, as well.”
Seay began his coaching career at Aledo, and leaves behind impressive fodder for a resume should he choose to return to the coaching profession. In his tenure with the Bearcats football coaching staff, he never failed to achieve the playoffs and always advanced to at least the second round. Throw into the mix four state championships and four state semi-final playoff appearances, and you have pretty substantial success credentials, be it for a coaching job or a sales position.
The fill the void left by Seay, Buchanan and the administrative staff have performed preliminary moves within before hiring, making a case-in-point of the Aledo way.
Jerod Crawford, one of the freshman coaches, has been moved up to coach the defensive ends on the varsity squad, another of Seay’s previous responsibilities. Coach [Steve] Wood will be the sole defensive coordinator for the coming year. Blake Christianson will fill the head boys track coach vacated by Seay.
Joe McCoy will come up from the middle school to take Crawford’s former spot, which will be to help with the freshman football team and to also assist with coaching the varsity receivers.
“McCoy will also assist with boys basketball, Buchanan explained. “Which is good, because he has also been a head basketball coach during his career.”
Aledo did lose some coaches at the middle school level that were not the result of moving up the ladder, but instead were diverting current coaching careers to invest attention to family matters. While certainly a common occurrence for many coaches who are at that stage of their lives, Buchanan understands the life changes and only rues the quality of coaches who left.
“We lost the three middle school girls coaches, and they were some of the best we have ever had at the middle school level,” Buchanan said. “But they will be replaced by Amber Grice, Keegan Roady and Virginia Jeffries.
“Jefferies, who lives and has kids in the Aledo ISD, comes to us after being the head girls basketball coach at Arlington Heights.”
With the help of a part time coach who will also help out middle school girls teams (the UIL allows the practice at the middle school level), Buchanan observes that they may actually be in as good or better shape than before, in spite of losing three quality mentors.
On paper, Aledo lost two boys coaches at the middle school after moving McCoy up and Ben Manning leaving for another position. To fill those slots, Scott Cartwright, a former student-athlete and coach at Aledo will return with improved credentials. He was a coordinator in another school’s football program.
And Todd Bailey joins the staff to replace Manning.
In a growing sports world of specialization, at the prep level and otherwise, it is hard to argue with the proven “farm” method Aledo deploys. A brief look at their annual success in a wide range of sports provides convincing proof.