Calloway returns home to fulfill dream of coaching at alma mater
Jamie Shell / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
That phrase is the mantra preached by former Avery High School and ASU wrestling standout Derrick Calloway, who was named as Avery Vikings wrestling coach in mid-June. Calloway will also teach history at the school.
Calloway replaces Stacey Clark, who cited spending more time with family as a primary reason in handing the program reins to Calloway.
"Coach Clark and I talked about this for a while. I had heard there could be a position opening at Avery, so we mentioned it back and forth," Calloway explained in an exclusive interview last week with The AJT. "When I took the job, I met with Stacey and told him I was there to do whatever I could do to help. Through those conversations, he said he might want to continue to coach, but this was an opportunity to let him spend more time with his family. He's going to still be involved with the program, and I think family just brought all of this together. Stacey trusted me enough to succeed him as coach, and I greatly appreciate that."
Calloway spent the past two years as head coach at state wresting powerhouse Alleghany, where he tutored six state qualifiers and a state champion during his tenure.
"First and foremost, I wanted to return to Avery for family reasons," Calloway said. "I have been away for the past four and a half years, and family has always been a big part of my life. Alleghany was a 2.5 hour drive, and I wasn't able to be as close to family as I would have liked."
For Calloway, returning to Newland is the fulfillment of a dream since his days wrestling for the Vikings.
"This is truly the realization of a dream for me to come home and coach at Avery," Calloway explained. "Wrestling and sports and general have given me so much, and I have an opportunity to give back at the school I attended and grew up in. With all I've been through in wrestling, I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of Coach [Matthew] Bentley and Coach [Tom] Puckett. Having an opportunity to be a coach and mentor like they were means a lot to me. It's always been in the back of my mind to someday coach here. From my time coaching at Mitchell and at Alleghany, I have learned a great deal and I loved both places, but there's something about coming to your home school that has had a pull on me."
During his coaching career, Calloway has experienced his share of highs and lows. He explained that those experiences have helped shape him as a head coach and forged him into a well-rounded and better coach.
"In my few short years of coaching, I've been through more obstacles, I believe, than some coaches who have coached for a lifetime," Calloway said. "Those things have helped shape and strengthen me and made me a better coach. I've got to learn what style coaching best suits me and what suits my wrestlers. I learned a great deal from coaches and the community at Alleghany. We went through some adversity, but we were fortunate to have some state qualifiers and a state champion during that time."
An incident that greatly affected both Calloway and his team a season ago was an injury suffered by one of his wrestlers. Trojans wrestler Luke Hampton suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a match in December, leaving him paralyzed below the shoulders. The injury garnered regional attention, but Calloway explained how the incident galvanized his club.
"Dan Gable once said that wrestling helps you to get off your back when life puts you on your back. Wrestling is a great way to get kids to build confidence, and I don't know where I'd be without wrestling," Calloway added. "With Luke's injury, in spite of how tragic it was, he was back supporting his wrestlers, including his brother who qualified for the state championships as a freshman. No other sport can more mentally and physically prepare you for life than wrestling. No matter what you go through, wrestling teaches you to not give up and to keep fighting."
Calloway's philosophy entering the coming season begins with community involvement and building a family atmosphere within the county-wide program. "
We have to have community involvement, because that is key. If you know anything about Alleghany, you know that it is a tightly-knit wrestling community," Calloway elaborated. "We had a gym packed full on nights that weren't conference meets or a tournament because that is what the community is centered around. I think we need to push this concept at Avery, involving the community with the wrestling program.
"Fans used to be at Avery matches in huge numbers supporting the team, so we need to start building community rapport and family bonds within the team. I expect to see our wrestlers supporting one another through good times and bad times. We want fans to be excited about wrestling in Avery County, and we have a good foundation with the Dogtown Wrestling Club that has done a great job working with our younger wrestlers. That's where the program begins building up, and that involves family members and community support."
As far as on-mat success goes, Calloway says for Avery wrestling to return to glory, becoming a winning program begins with a winning attitude.
"You have to be relentless in pursuing victory on the mat and supporting your team. The coach plays a part in that, but so do the kids. You can't just roll over. Wrestling is tough, and if you roll over and quit, you're going to roll over and quit in life," Calloway explained. "Wrestling teaches mental and physical toughness. It's a one-on-one struggle and our wrestlers have to have the mentality that it's going to be them who gets their hand raised at the end of the battle. If we don't get the win, our guys will not roll over and give up. Wrestling has a proud tradition at Avery, and this sport doesn't come easy. Wrestling takes a lot of hard work. Our kids have to be mentally ready before walking on the mat, which will lead to that relentlessness and, I believe, to success."
Calloway encourages all kids interested in wrestling to join the wrestlers at Dogtown Wrestling Club for roll around in the high school wrestling room on Sundays at 2 p.m.