Written by Corbett Smith
'Man, this is awesome,' first-time head coaches at Poteet, Rowlett, more share emotions of on-field debuts
ARLINGTON — When Arlington Bowie coach Danny DeArman took the field for warm-ups before last week’s season opener against Mansfield, something was off.
Instead of the usual — working with his defense, firing them up and making sure they knew their correct alignments — he found himself working with kickers and their snappers.
DeArman was minutes away from the start of his head coaching career.
“Pregame, that’s when it hit me,” DeArman said. “I wasn’t really involved in what I’d normally been doing. I walked off the field when we broke, and I told one of the trainers as we walked off that it finally feels a little different. Very different. But once the game got started, everything was smooth.”
Twelve first-time head coaches took the field for area Class 5A, 4A and 3A programs last week, and experienced similar revelations to DeArman. Routines are different. In-game responsibilities changed. It’s their program now — and wins and losses, successes and failures, all will be tied to them.
For Frisco Lone Star coach Jeff Rayburn, last Friday was the culmination of a 10-year plan to become a head coach after graduating from college.
Rayburn, 32, said that the “laser-sharp focus” on the task at hand prevented him from waxing poetic about his inaugural game. But for a moment, when his team got off the bus and took the FC Dallas turf well before kickoff, he did let his mind wander.
“Man, this is awesome,” Rayburn said. “I’m finally going to get to run my own program. But as soon as we walked off the field, I started to think about what we needed to get done. The way we run our pre-game, it’s real organized. It’s so structured that I wanted to make sure we were on our time schedule for our pregame.”
When the kickoff drew nearer for Mesquite Poteet’s Kody Groves, he took to the stands to calm his nerves.
“I think I was pretty calm all the way up until about an hour leading up to the game,” Groves said. “So, I [sat] up in the stands at the very top, and watched our kids to pre-game. Just sitting back and trying to relax, thinking about how lucky I am, and how I didn’t want to squander that opportunity.”
As pregame reflection gave way to live action, most of the coaches had to settle into a new role. Instead of calling offensive or defensive plays (nearly all were promoted from a coordinator’s position), they were more engaged in the game, ceding at least a part of their play-calling duties to another assistant.
Putting faith in an assistant to do your old job is hard, said Rayburn.
“You have to have complete trust in someone else’s ability to do that, and if you have that, it makes it easier when you give [play-calling] up,” he said.
New Rowlett coach Doug Stephens — a 32-year coaching veteran who’s served as offensive coordinator at five different stops — said he wouldn’t give up control entirely. Stephens said he got to where he is in the coaching profession by calling plays.
“So why would you give it up?” Stephens said. “From my perspective, it’s a simple as that.
“But this job demands that you manage your time differently. You aren’t going to draw a line, offense/defense. You’ve got to be a true head coach.”
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitter at @corbettsmithDMN