By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–Athens Hornets Head Coach Paul Essary is working hard to establish a culture of winning.
Now in his fifth year at the helm, Essary brought the Hornets to the playoffs three out of his four seasons.
When he was brought on board as the Athletic Director and Head Coach in 2009, the team made the playoffs two consecutive seasons. It was the first time in 51 years that a Hornet team made the playoffs back-to-back.
“I tell the boys that they are part of starting a tradition of winning at Athens High School,” Essary said. “One or two good years doesn’t start a tradition. It takes longer.”
If this year’s Hornets can make the playoffs, as they except to, a whole new class would achieve success after Essary’s arrival. It’s an important step in his vision.
“The most important part of winning is to get the kids to buy in and believe in themselves,” Essary said. “When it’s really become all about winning, losing is no longer an option. When this gets into a kids head, real results start to show. Winning is bigger than the individual. When the kids realize its important for the team, the family and the community, they finally start to believe in what they can do.”
Coaching well takes a high level of tenacity. Essary explains the difference between successful coaching and mediocre coaching.
“It’s hard to be a good coach. It’s easy to let the students slide on little things and not give their full effort. But how does that profit them? How does that profit the team? How would that reflect on me? It’s easy to not constantly demand they give their best effort and constantly reinforce it. The same with a coaching staff. It’s easy not to demand their best. But when you do, it forms a culture of winning.”
According to Essary, a culture of winning will field well-prepared teams that come ready to play at their highest level each week. They may not always win the game, but it won’t ever be because they didn’t give 110 percent.
“I tell kids when they give all they have they are getting close to what it takes to win. Once they give everything, they need to give just a little bit more to get there.”
That little bit more can be the difference between a win and a loss. Essary says that when the whole team gives all they have, plus more you will no longer beat yourself. This forces a good team to play its best to win.
“We do not accept losing here,” Essary said. “Losing means we caused the loss. Getting beat, however is a different story. If we are well prepared, played our best, but the other team is just better, we can accept this kind of loss.”
“We want to be a team that does not lose, that forces other teams to beat us.”
Essary knows that some days students, and even coaches, don’t want to work hard. But it’s those days when it is more important to push through to success.
“I tell them there will be days when they have a family and they may not feel like getting up to go to work. Who’s going to feed their family then? They will need to get up and do it anyway. I teach the boys that lesson here and now.”