Doing it the Dragon Way
Mar 22, 2012 09:11AM ● Published by Mike
The following is an excerpt from an original feature with Coach Hal Wasson specifically for publication in Southlake Style’s Dragon Pride Championship Edition.
It was five seasons ago when Hal Wasson first took the post as Head Coach of the storied Southlake Dragon Football program. At that time he was the school board’s unanimous choice from a pool of twenty-eight highly qualified candidates. Not only did he have the backing of the school board, but also the support of former head coach Todd Dodge who said, “…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.”
Born and raised in Corsicana, the son of Homer, a hard working cotton-farmer, Hal Wasson grew up amidst a backdrop of down home family values and his father’s intense work ethic. Those early life lessons where determination brings success still lead Wasson today as a husband, father and coach. “My father has been my life’s greatest inspiration,” said Wasson in an earlier interview, “He has always stayed the course and has always focused on the positives in everything.” For the Wasson men, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Back in 2002 Hal’s son Chase, quarterbacked the Dragon’s to their first ever 5A Sate Championship.
For 24 years and counting Wasson has been coaching all of his players that hard work and a positive attitude will take you far in life and the latest era of Dragon student athletes are taking it all in. Under Wasson they have learned the value of hard work and the rewards of an overall record of 46-7 including this year’s 16-0 run as the 2011 5A State Champions.
During a post championship interview we sat down with the 2011 Max Preps National Coach of the Year to discuss what makes this year’s team stand out, the championship run, all the post-season accolades and, of course, animal crossings.
Southlake Style: Congratulations on being honored as Max Preps National Coach of the Year. How does that make you feel?
Hal Wasson: It’s a great honor that is shared by a lot of folks. We have a great staff that is second to none. It’s a team effort. As a Head Coach you get to wear the team effort good or bad. It is the ultimate reflection of the team effort.
I would also like to give a heartfelt thank you to the community. In my opinion, we have the greatest fan base, venue, and community in which to play high school football. Its not perception it’s a fact. You can feel the passion in the community, like we do on the field. To the parents, thank you for making this such a special season by allowing us to coach your kids and trusting us with your prized possessions.
SS: Please tell our readers how it felt to win your first State Championship.
HW: I’m still walking on air, if that answers the question. It was an exhilarating feeling just getting there. I would tear up a little bit, when you are chasing the dream for as long as I have, you become really close with your coaches and your kids, you get emotionally attached to the situation. It has been exhilarating and surreal. I wish these moments on any coach, because it is such an unbelievable feeling.
SS: What did it feel like to stand on the field as the clock expired?
HW: There was definitely an emotional attachment to the moment. I really thought I would break down a little bit, but I didn’t. I thought about a lot of people I could share the moment with. Kids I coached, not just at Carroll, but kids from when I started my head coaching journey and others I’ve worked with, coaches, administrators and colleagues. I realized I was sharing it with a lot of people that I’m greatly indebted to. It’s not about me, but others who have believed in me for so long.
SS: Sounds like in the moment your coaching life sort of flashes before your eyes?
HW: I can definitely agree with that. I also thought of the families, wives and kids who sacrifice so much. They go through the good and tough times, and the toughest part for them is that the losses always seem to outweigh the wins. And that is what I don’t like about it. It is so difficult to get to this point, so I’m choosing to relish every moment of it.
SS: What have you relished most thus far?
HW: Immediately after the game I had over a hundred texts from past players, guys that I coached in the 1980s that were so excited. When all is said and done it comes down to relationships. That is what life is really about. I’ve heard from countless friends from the past and that has been a lot of fun. Here in town it has been uplifting for me, that when walking around people are happy, smiling and excited for players and coaches. So many have had encouraging things to say and to me that is very rewarding.
SS: What do you feel has been your mark on this program?
HW: The biggest thing we’ve done to help this program is to bring in great coaches. I feel good about what I do, because I feel so strongly about the folks in the coach’s meetings. [The coaching staff] has allowed me to spend more time on motivation and visualization. Starting this season’s climb, from the valley to the peak of the mountain and then planting our flag there, the visualization of it all was very strong with this team.
SS: What did you learn from this year’s team?
HW: This team personally taught me many life lessons. They were relentless in achieving their goals and pursuing their dreams. More importantly they were resilient in times of adversity. It is one of the few things you can control.
Our season finished just as it started. “We played [Copperas] Cove, we’re down a couple of touchdowns and we were home. It was important to get the season started on the right track by winning at home against the team who defeated us in the opening game last season. We fought clawed and chewed our way back and won the game.
That is exactly how our season ended, in the biggest venues they had been in their lives. That was resilience. We were down two scores against the #1 team in the State and the #2 in the country and we came back to win. These kids never gave up. In ten of our games this year we came from behind. Ten of sixteen and that speaks volumes about the character of our team.
SS: Under past regimes “airing it out” was a big part of the game plan. This year there was definitely a fair amount of running plays. Would you say you did it your way?
HW: Tradition and expectations go hand in hand. Expectations have been a great benefit for this program. There is no doubt in my mind you always want to be at a place where the expectations are high. Tradition does set the expectations. However, tradition doesn’t block, tackle or run. I like to think we did it our way, the Dragon Way.
SS: Very wise. Is that why they call you “The Silver Fox”?
HW: (laughing) Hey, I worked hard for this hair color. Countless hours in this profession. It works for me! I think it represents more maturity and longevity. Some people say “sly like a fox”…yeah that is good too.
SS: And the “Silver Fox Swag”?
HW: The Silver Fox Swag (and the t-shirts) came about as we began the playoffs. I was doing my best to downplay it. When we played Skyline it wasn’t a red fox, but a silver fox that ran across the field. Of all the weird twists on a season, for that fox to run across the field at that moment is completely unimaginable. I call it the “Mystique of the Dragon”. There is a lot of mystique with this program…and the fox ads to it.