Like many of his teammates, Emerald Ridge senior Tyler McBride wondered how five men would share head coaching duties of the Jaguars’ football team.
“It takes a lot of trust to hop on board with that,” he said. “I was wondering, ‘Who’s the authority figure? Who’s going to step up and take charge?’ ”
Seven months since Brian Anderson, Torey Donovan, Darren Erath, Troy Halfaday and Adam Schakel were hired, McBride can’t believe he ever questioned the plausibility of having five co-head coaches.
“What I’ve seen is that it’s one effort; they are one team,” the running back/defensive back said. “They all share. There’s no one guy. It’s so much better that way. They’re going to see a lot of success here because of that.”
Right now, that success isn’t being measured in victories. Mired in the midst of a 17-game losing streak, and with seven losing seasons since 2001, the Jaguars needed a jolt to the system.
They definitely got one with the radical idea of five head coaches, but even the players knew a turnaround would not happen immediately.
“There needed to be a change in the culture,” senior receiver Conner Marshall said. “These head coaches came in and set their foot down. It is going to get better. It will take time.”
The five foremen are overseeing a program under construction. And the change has already begun.
Players are no longer embarrassed to wear their jerseys at school. Some team members have become better citizens on campus, drawing compliments from teachers. Pep assemblies have actual pep. In time, the coaches believe, those changes will tumble onto the field and Emerald Ridge will end its losing streak.
“Emerald Ridge is on the up and up right now,” McBride said. “You may not see the success on the scoreboard right now. But on the practice field, it’s a brand new team. It takes time to build programs and they’re starting from ground zero, honestly.”
The coaches have a collective 48 years of coaching experience, and they’ve spent much of it together. They work well together, and in the players’ eyes they share authority, although each has a specific responsibility. Schakel and Erath are co-offensive coordinators, but Schakel is the game manager, meaning he’s on the sidelines and in charge of calling timeouts, while Erath is in the coaches box. Donovan oversees the offensive and defensive lines. Anderson is the defensive coordinator, and Halfaday is in charge of special teams and linebackers.
“We established roles in beginning,” Halfaday said. “Your turn comes up, you take the leadership.”
OK, but who takes control in crunch time? For instance, if the Jaguars have the ball at midfield with about a minute left in the first half, who’s calling the shots? According to Halfaday, the situation would go something like this:
If a timeout was in order, Schakel would call for one. From the coaches box, Erath would relay the play call to Schakel, who would send it to the huddle. Meanwhile, Donovan, who’s also in the box, would provide the coaches on the sideline with information on the offensive line. All that’s left is for the players to execute.
That process is very similar to anything a team with one head coach goes through. The biggest difference is that the coaches making those kind of decisions on other teams are called assistant coaches.
Halfaday admits that the coaches don’t always see eye-to-eye. That doesn’t worry him.
“We’ve had conflicts, but every staff has that,” he said. “Iron sharpens iron. We’re sharpening each other every day. There is accountability.”
The players are believers in the arrangement.
“We’re buying into it,” McBride said. “It might not look like it on the scoreboard, but we’re about more than that. The coaches always tell us, ‘We build champions first and championships come later.’ We’re going to get that success.”