SS:Archives - Hal Wasson
Southlake Style Archives: Hal Wasson's first interview with Southlake Style - Dragon Pride September 2007
It takes a special personality to even begin to fill the shoes of former Dragon Head Coach Todd Dodge, Southlake’s reigning citizen of the year and creator of the “Dodge Ball” phenomenon that has brought national recognition to our small city. Once you meet Hal Wasson, the Dragon’s new head football coach, you will quickly understand why the school board unanimously chose him from a pool of twenty-eight extremely well qualified candidates.
What makes Wasson the right man for the job has yet to be seen by most of the city. But according to University of North Texas’ Todd Dodge, “I’m taking some good candidates with me to UNT, but to me the only choice is Hal Wasson. He has a wealth of experience and his knowledge of the way we did things will be great assets.”
Need more proof? Just ask Dragon senior wide receiver Jeremy Gray about what sets Wasson apart and he’ll tell you “He’s always fired up.” Even Wasson himself will tell you that he’s “intense”. Yet, the real special quality that comes with his leadership is that he knows when to be intense and when to be calm. Wasson knows when to have what senior running back Tre Newton says is “Pep in your Step” or when to just be peacefully focused. Coach Wasson may spend his working hours on the gridiron yet he balances his life through down time relaxing with his family, reading books or watching movies.
We started our conversation with the calmer side of Hal. When asked about his hobbies, he proudly remarked, “Believe it or not my kids are my hobby. I’ve spent a lot of time chasing them around. Now one is at OU and the other at A&M.” Wasson is a true family man and with two children about to finish college one could say he raised them well. Even though his own children may be gone, his empty nest is now chocked full of Southlake Carroll Dragons.
Hal Wasson was born and raised in Corsicana, the son of Homer, a hard-working cotton farmer. He grew up amidst a backdrop of down home family values which included Dad’s fierce work ethic, a way of life that fashioned Dad as a prosperous farmer and board member to the local university. These early life lessons still guide Wasson’s daily unwavering determination as he journeys through life as a husband, father and coach. “My father has been my life’s greatest inspiration,” says Wasson. “He has always stayed the course and has always focused on the positives in everything.”
Don’t let his calm exterior fool you for long; when it comes to coaching he professes to be “very intense, passionate and enthusiastic”. In fact, it wasn’t long before the intense side came out, he’ll even admit he’s not trying to hide it.
Wasson makes no excuses for complacency; rather he stays focused on the integrity of the program through each individual’s contribution beginning with his own. “I’m a very, very hungry coach,” says Wasson. “I never want to let a kid down. I never want a kid to come off the field and say that we didn’t do our homework to get prepared.” It’s his selfless attitude of doing what is right for the program and its players that leads senior offensive lineman Jake Jackson to say “he takes a personal interest in us as players and people.”
When it comes to the success of the 2007 Dragons, both sides of his personality will play as important of a role as his 20 years of head coaching experience. Often new leaders enter a new situation with the excitement and desire to leave their personal mark on an organization. For Wasson this does not seem to be an issue. He freely admits, “I believe philosophically in the things that Coach Dodge stood for with the entire program. It was a really nice fit for me personally as well. The program has been extremely successful and “I don’t want to change for change’s sake.”
In his coaching past, Wasson had seen great success with a more blue-collar, physical running attack. Yet in 2001, as the running backs coach for Southlake, this “forever student of the game” learned a big football lesson from his own son, Chase, a QB who would go on to lead the Dragons to their first 5A state championship.
“My son woke me up to the new era of football [the spread offense, AKA Dodge Ball]. He helped me realize there is more than one way to accomplish a goal. That rejuvenated me and my ability to continue to have fun with the game of football. I hope no one ever has to tell me to quit because I’m no longer enjoying this game.”
Coach Wasson has passion to spare and he knows that will spill over throughout the entire organization and the community. He often tells his players, “Every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet.” Simply put, embrace every moment of every day. More specifically treat every day of the week with as much enthusiasm as Friday.
“We’re going to work, that doesn’t change [no matter who is coaching]. Some people confuse intensity, passion and work ethic with being too serious. I can’t change my intensity.” From off-season conditioning and pre- season Dragon Makers (intense team oriented conditioning drills) all the way through game day execution a Dragon’s work ethic is second to none. Yet, along the way Wasson also believes there is time to “have fun” and he thoroughly enjoys being around the kids and the camaraderie of the coaches. “This team and its brand of offense is fun because you never know who is going to get the ball, it keeps every player on their toes.”
Even the offensive linemen get to catch passes during team practices and who knows when else! Southlake Carroll finished 2006 as undefeated State Champions with the honorable addition of a “Mythical National Title”. For 2007, most preseason polls, including USA Today, had the Dragons as the #1 ranked team in the nation. All of this recognition both locally and nationally has Wasson “humbled” as he knows the foundation for this attention was built by many past and present players and coaches.
He has instilled a respect in today’s Dragons for the contributions of those who have come before them and he tells his players to “continue to build upon that foundation” best summed up with the generations long motto of “Protect the Tradition.”
In the end, Wasson knows his team starts its season in the shadows of a great tradition but by the end he believes, “This team will create its own identity and I respect them for that.” Former head coach Dodge knows, “The program deserves someone that will keep the traditions alive and he definitely will.”
Along the way, Wasson will undoubtedly add some new traditions of his own, and they too, will be worth protecting.