(PHOTO: Paul Thress)
As many have heard, Chad Barger resigned from his head coaching position at Coahulla Creek High School (Varnell, Ga.) on Monday. It was the latest stop on the football circuit, including stints at Cannon County (Woodbury, Tenn.), Sequatchie County (Dunlap, Tenn.), and Clay County (Celina, Tenn.).
And as I write this, I’ll put a disclaimer in place: I played under him during my junior–and first year–of high school football at Sequatchie County. So I’ve seen a different side than any article could ever give you. Not that I’m anything special.
A football coach’s job is, first and foremost, to build young men from the ground up. Put all else aside and make sure your student-athletes not only graduate but thrive in the classroom. Their future is more important than a game because, for the most part, they won’t get the chance to play at the next level.
If there was a man that more embodied that through adversity and success, it was Barger.
There are things you don’t forget while in high school, especially when you play sports. One of those memories, for me anyways, was the time that Coach Barger had a day named after him at the school. It was complete with an almost life-sized scarecrow type being dressed in a hoodie and jeans with a picture of the legendary figure taped to the head.
Barger was a character, but unlike other coaches I experienced, he didn’t just coach, he taught on and off the field. Some coaches are handed classes with very little responsibility–if they’re given a class at all–other than ‘don’t let them skip class.’ Barger taught World Geography and Personal Finance when I attended Sequatchie County, and those lessons still stick with me today. Sometimes even more so than those he left on the field. And as I’ve talked to several classmates, they too remember the sessions spent in Barger’s midst.
Barely above the players’ height sometimes, if he was at all, Barger always made sure we had the bigger picture, outside of football that is. His personality was hilarious, and though we had a lot of fun, business was business, and football was football.
I could go on and on about the perks of Chad Barger and the impact he has had on so many, but what really sums it up is a quote from Tracy Mardis, principal of Coahulla Creek High School to the Time Free Press.
“Chad shared with the kids today that he has been more negative than usual, and he felt like for the betterment of our program this is what he needs to do,” Mardis said. “The kids seem to be OK. They hugged him and high-fived him after their meeting this morning.”
There are not many situations in life when a coach can walk out of a meeting in which he resigns and still be highly respected among the players. And it’s happened at least twice that I’m aware of now, including his resignation at Sequatchie County where more people, than not, still have a lot respect for the man, including myself.
As as crazy as it may seem, Chad Barger is likely one of the better coaches to have graced the turf at Sequatchie County, not because of his wins, although he did lead a 2nd round charge in 2010 playoffs beating Bledsoe County in the first round on an overtime extra point, but because he made a huge impact on the players. He bettered their lives by building men rather than boys.
Wins don’t matter as much as character. Remember that the next time an Indian running back scores a touchdown. Remember that when a Pirate quarterback wins the game on a long pass. Remember that when another title run becomes imminent for Marion County.
Schemes may win games and championships, but character wins life, period.
And Barger had that and more, knowing exactly when he’s in a situation where nothing else can be done: at Sequatchie County and now at Coahulla Creek. And although some may see it as quitting–which it is not–Barger has the wherewithal to know what’s best for the program. After all, he’s a head coach, and there are still high heads above. That’s above his paygrade, but he still made the decision for the sake of the kids because it was the right thing to do.
More importantly, though, this man looked past football toward his family for all the right reasons.
And who knows, with the ever-changing carousel spinning in the Sequatchie Valley, Barger could get the coaching bug again–possibly closer to his Bledsoe County heritage.