‘The time is right’
Wade ready to pass the torch at East Coweta
by Chris Goltermann
Confirming he is resigning as East Coweta High’s head football coach Thursday after six seasons at the helm and 22 within the Indians’ program, Clint Wade wants to make two things clear.
The first that it was is an “extremely hard decision,” one that equally came without any outside influence other than a great deal of thought and prayer. It eventually brought him to the conclusion that “it was time to step down and pass that torch to someone else.”
“It’s weighed on me for a while. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and this is the right thing for me,” Wade said. “I’m good. I’m at peace with everything and my decision. It wasn’t easy. But the time is right.”
The other is that Wade wasn’t quite sure he’s ready to put down the coaching whistle just yet after 30-plus years, the majority coming at East Coweta. He’ll finish the school year, but is uncertain what the next step in his career will be.
“I may look at retirement, but I’m not sure yet. There’s some other options out there, I think,” said Wade, 55. “I still feel like I have a few years of coaching in me.”
Football has been as much a lifestyle since birth. Wade played and then coached under his father, Don, a former star at Clemson, while at Tennessee Tech before moving on to the high school ranks in Georgia, working under Dan Pitts at Mary Persons and Max Bass at Newnan before heading across the county to East Coweta under Danny Cronic.
The three head coaches combined for 771 high school victories over respective careers.
Learning the ropes as a high school coach admittedly wasn’t a snap for Wade, who went 38-29 over six seasons, but also did so as the Indians moved first to Class AAAAA and then to AAAAAA as a high school with an enrollment of 2,000, among the state’s largest.
Back-to-back sub .500 years — the first for East Coweta since the 1981 and 1982 seasons — also came with the Indians playing a non-region schedule this year that included eventual playoff teams in Archer (11-1), Sandy Creek (11-1) and Lovejoy (10-2).
The Indians reached the state playoffs in all six years under Wade, increasing the program’s streak of consecutive postseason berths to 21 and counting heading into 2014.
“Wins and losses are where teams tend to be judged and we obviously weren’t satisfied with that [this year]. But I thought our coaches and players did a great job,” Wade said. “I feel the football program is headed in the right direction. I wouldn’t leave it if it were in shambles and I feel comfortable enough to step away and let the next person have at it.”
Wade admitted that there were distinct differences in taking the role of a head coach, ones that required adjustments that he was willing to make when accepting a promotion prior to the 2008 season.
“The demands of the job are ever increasing. It does weigh on you. I’m fine with it,” Wade said, affably. “Sometimes it’s just hard for people to understand what it’s like to be a head coach.”
The positives have outweighed the negatives, however, especially when it comes to the work on the field.
“The coaches and players and the relationships I’ve had with them, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “You go through the adversity together on the field. Things tend to get defined among wins and losses, but it’s kids and how you see them develop. Then you get to see them become good citizens to where they’re able to fight that same adversity when it hits them in the face.”
The program battled through difficulty during Wade’s earliest years at East Coweta as the high school was going through a growth spurt en route to becoming an annual playoff participant.
When Wade first arrived in Sharpsburg in 1992 as part of Cronic’s football staff, the high school was often referred by some as “little ol’ East Coweta,” a moniker that its coaches often used as incentive against opponents.
Some feel it fueled the program to its first football victory over rival Newnan High in 1993, the first of a decade-long dominance in a series that has now just about evened out in 22 meetings.
“My time at little ole East Coweta has been remarkable and rewarding in a lot of ways,” he said in much the same fun-loving manner. “We’ve accomplished a lot of things and I feel blessed to be a part of it.
Wade had been a part in every East Coweta-Newnan game wearing purple and gold, going 2-2 against the Cougars in his first stint as a head football coach including this year’s 24-7 win at Drake Stadium that gave the Indians a slight 12-10 edge while claiming the Brantley-Knott Water Cooler in its first year of existence.
The end of the 2013 season following a first-round Class AAAAAA playoff loss to Lowndes brought as much reevaluation for Wade, who discussed it in depth with wife Lorraine and children Christopher, Maggie and Don Norris.
“I took some time to let the smoke clear [after the season],” he said. “We’ve talked about it, prayed about it.”
Meanwhile, much of the lessons Wade’s has learned through coaching remain fitting to life off the field.
“Dad always said to treat others like you would want to be treated,” he said. “If you do that and you’re able to keep a smile on your face, then good things will happen to you.”