A strong connection between the current members of the Lafayette High football team and former members has always been something that has made the Commodores a force to be reckoned with each fall. But the bond amongst the coaching staff and their immediate family is arguably just as strong, if not stronger, and the role that they play has also helped LHS achieve at a high level.Just moments after the Commodores wrapped up their 15th win of the season this past Friday at Noxubee County to advance to Jackson for the Class 4A state title game, LHS head coach Anthony Hart and defensive coordinator Eric Robertson gave each other a hug.
It was more than just a sign of congratulations; it was an embrace similar to what a father and son give each other when they haven’t seen each other in some time. The hug spoke volumes as to how Hart feels about Robertson, as well as the other members of his staff that includes offensive coordinator Dennis Robbins, defensive line coach Nacoma Jones, defensive ends coach Ty Taylor, outside linebackers coach Jimmy Murphrey, tight ends coach Wayne Davis, receivers/defensive backs coach Dusty Finley and receivers coach Keith Brown.
Hart said this week that this group of coaches was the best staff he had ever been around and based on how well the Commodores have performed over the last two years, it’s hard to argue against that.
“Coach James, Coach Murphrey and Coach Robertson, they were a part of our original staff here and then the next year we added Coach Finely and Coach Robbins. Then the next year Coach Davis started helping us, Coach Taylor the last two years and Coach Brown is a student coach and he does a great job for us,” Hart said. “These guys, we spend time together other than just football. We went to a couple of games this year, a high school game and a JUCO game. We enjoy the fellowship time amongst us. Our wives are close. They all sit together at the games. They have a routine like we do.”
The experience of the staff, and knowing what Hart likes and doesn’t like, make everything run a lot smoother during the week and on Friday nights.
“Coach Robertson and Coach Robbins do a great job doing their coordinator positions. It makes it easy on me. I don’t call many plays,” Hart said. “I usually just gripe about the ones that they call. I wait until after the play is called to gripe. They laugh about that a lot. They are valuable people, not just as coaches, but to these kids and to this school. Any involvement they have with them is important. All of these coaches do a great job with these kids all day, everyday, not just football practice.”
The coach’s wives are definitely a tight group as well. They sit together at the games and make all the road trips and they are the first to hit the field following a win, or loss.
“Tracy (Hart) and I have always tried to maintain a close relationship with all the folks we’re coaching with. We don’t see it as a head coach or a head coach’s wife deal. We see it as we’re all equal. I don’t ever profess to be the smartest guy or the most knowledgeable guy. I just want to be the guy that provides a program where all the coaches wives and families can be comfortable,” Hart said. “To me it’s important that our families feel very comfortable coming to the field house and coming to the games. I don’t want them to feel like it’s a place that they don’t need to be. I want them to feel like it’s a place for them to be because they spend so much of their lives in it that they need to be involved as well.”
Being involved in the details, the behind-the-scenes stuff it takes for a team to play for state championships is something Hart and his staff is good at. Everything is lined up in regards to travel and practice preparation and Hart is the ringmaster of the organization.
“We do the same things every week. We practice the same way on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. The kids know what to expect. They’ve been doing it since they’ve been in the program. I think it helps all of us. I think it helps the players, the coaches, it even helps the managers to prepare for that day’s practice,” Hart said. “I’ve noticed if we ever have to change routines, it kind of disrupts us because they are used to things. So when we have to make changes, it kind of knocks them off their path for a few minutes.”
There hasn’t been a lot that has knocked the Commodores off their path over the last two years and the routine that is in place allows for more teaching to be accomplished for the players.
“I think for some of them we are their structure. We make sure that they’re here and doing their practice things. It’s important to me. I know we have to be judged on wins and losses, but it’s important to me that those kids know that we’re a lot more than just a wins and losses,” Hart said. “I think that these kids know that we care about them and we want what is best for them, and not just what is best for them on the football field, but in their lives.” (December 2, 2010, Page 4B)