Sports

January 17, 2014

Colts' new football coach going back to basics

When he was coaching the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi would gather his team around him at the start of training camp and hold up a football.

“Gentlemen, this is a football.”

It was his way of demonstrating that the first thing you always work on in the game is the fundamentals.

Coahulla Creek High School football coach Chad Barger, hired this week, used that story Thursday when describing what the Colts will do under his leadership. Barger met with his new team for the first time on Thursday.

“When we talked to the kids this morning, we mentioned that there is a clean slate,” Barger said. “We will start from scratch. The basics have got to be taught first, and once they are taught, we will go from there.”

Barger spent the day at the three-year-old school in northern Whitfield County, meeting with his players, interviewing the current coaches on staff and then meeting with the community in the evening. On Monday, Barger was named as the successor to Jared Hamlin, who was fired at the end of last season after three years and a two-year varsity record of 4-16.

Barger, 37, has been the head coach at three Tennessee high school programs — Sequatchie, Clay County and Cannon County — and has an overall record of 43-53 in eight seasons.

Barger resigned from the head coaching position at Sequatchie County in November 2012 after compiling a 29-26 record in five seasons. He was 2-8 in his final season leading a program that went 1-19 in the two seasons before he took over. The Indians were 6-5 in his first season, and he led the school to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 13 years. He took Cannon County to its first winning season in 29 years. In his one season this past fall at Clay County, Barger’s team was 3-7.

He has plenty of experience in growing programs that have not had successful histories or much tradition.

“The biggest thing is learning the kids and watching them change,” he said. “The biggest issue that you deal with in teams that aren’t used to winning (is) their lack of confidence. They are always looking for someone else to make a play or waiting for something bad to happen. As long as you are doing that, you are not going to be successful.

“We have to teach them how to win daily — winning in the weight room and winning in the classroom. Small steps, and once they start building their confidence and watching their self-esteem grow, that is what I want to focus on at this time.”

Already, he is impressed with the school.

“The big advantage is the facilities that we have and the newness of the program,” Barger said. “With the youth of the players that we have, we can build on it. We are not dealing with a senior-laden team. These guys will have a bright future ahead of them.”

But he also acknowledged the Colts have challenges. While youth can be an asset in terms of the future, that potential also requires time to develop. And any change in leadership requires an adjustment for those being led.

“There will be a transition, and kids sometimes struggle with transition and change,” Barger said. “The transition with the program will be one of our biggest challenges.”

Seven seniors are returning for Coahulla Creek, which will have four full classes for the first time next school year. Because of that growth, Barger will have two more coaching slots available in addition to any other slots which may come open due to teachers leaving.

“We are in the process of interviewing the guys who are here and who want to be here,” Barger said. “Hopefully we can bring in some other guys, too. We will build a good staff. I will surround myself with good coaches who are loyal and dedicated to the program.”

One of those coaches could be Barger’s older brother, David, who has been a head coach before and who currently is the defensive coordinator at Tennessee’s Giles County High School.

“We have coaching in our blood,” Barger said. “I would enjoy (coaching with him), and I have talked with him, but it just depends. We will see what the future holds.”

Barger plans to use a 4-2-5 defense, utilizing zone coverages in the secondary and a stunting front. Offensively, he will employ a version of the wing-T — traditionally thought of as a rushing-heavy scheme — that Barger said is adaptable to passing and running.

“I have done a little bit of everything, and obviously you have to fit your personnel, but with what we run, you can fit it,” he said. “We can be the high-flying, up-tempo throw-it-all-over- the-field, or we can be the two tight-end-set-with-power-football team, depending on what we have. We can adjust it where we need to.”

Barger pointed out that with this same system he had three running backs rush for 1,000 yards in one season at Sequatchie, and had both a 1,500-yard passer and a 1,000-yard runner at Clay County this past season.

“The players need to understand the style we are going to play with, which will be fast and physical,” he said. “Football is a physical sport and also an exciting sport. It is one of the most demanding sports that you can play. ... It teaches you a lot about adversity, and how you handle adversity builds your character. It will be tough at times, but the rewards will far outweigh any of the negatives.”

Barger’s wife Stacy is originally from Sequatchie County and he said getting back closer to her family was a big draw. Also, he has two daughters, the oldest of which will be an eighth-grader at North Whitfield Middle School. He said he is looking to give his children a stable environment in their high school years.

“I would love to plant my roots,” he said. “That is kind of what we are looking for is to plant ourselves and let my children graduate. The high school is amazing, and it would be a big advantage for them to graduate from here.”

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