Gallagher column: Coaches who stay together, win together

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2011

CHINA GROVE — Think about being a head coach on a high school football team and having just four assistants.
That’s practically unheard of, but Carson’s Mark Woody was presented that problem last year.
How did it work out?
How about a 10-win season?
That makes coming to work and doing the job of two people a little easier. But it’s still tough.
“We adjusted,” Woody laughed. “But it wasn’t easy. Or fun.”
This year, he has a whopping seven assistants. It’s still the smallest group in Rowan County, but he’ll take it. Why? Because he trusts and loves each of them.
“Everyone had to pick it up last year,” Woody said. “We were a tight-knit group. We still are.”
Assistant Ben Hampton, who coaches quarterbacks and backs, saw first-hand when he was a star at West Rowan what loyalty on a coaching staff can do. He always had the same coaches because no one wanted to leave Scott Young.
“In order to build a program like Coach Young, you have to be loyal,” Hampton said. “You build relationships with guys you come to work with everyday. I think there’s something to be said for that. It pushed West to three consecutive state titles.”

Guys like Hampton, Travis Billings, Barry Mitchem and Andre Neely have been with Woody for years. Jason Stanley has been there for several. Cameron Frick and Andre McCain join the Cougars this year.
Frick and McCain have no idea how tough it was last season with just five coaches.
“More than anything, it tests your patience,” Hampton said. “It teaches you the value of having numbers, not just on the field but with coaches as well.”
Woody became the offensive line coach.
The defense?
“I turned it over to Travis,” Woody said. “I trust him. He’s a tremendous coach.”
It’s nice having Mitchem, too. He’s a former head coach at West Davidson. And a very successful one.
“I can’t say enough about the guys who are with me,” Woody said. “I’m at a special place. We made our AYPs, we have a tremendous student body and a faculty that is tremendously supportive.”

Woody knows that several of his assistants, like Billings and Hampton, could follow him and Mitchem in a leading role someday. For now, Hampton is content learning from the head guy at Carson.
“I want to be under coaches like Woody,” Hampton said, again bringing up his alma mater. “(Joe) Nixon enjoys being under Coach Young just to have that mentor. If you’re not sure about something, you can say, ‘Hey coach, what do you think about this?’ ”
What made last year easier was having seniors like quarterback Zack Gragg, who, by the way, was out on the field earlier this month working with the quarterbacks before heading off to Methodist.
“He was a leader on the field,” Hampton said. “He’d see stuff and come tell us.”

Hampton did say it was a little different this season having a larger staff.
“With eight coaches,you have a couple standing around looking for something to do,” he smiled. “We’re so used to having five guys going here and going there, you get a little pause now and then.”
Another part of being a successful assistant is that you don’t want the glory.
“You don’t do it for the credit,” Hampton pointed out. “You do it for the success of the team.”
Under Woody, there has been plenty of that at Carson, regardless of the number of assistants.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or