Aug 4, 2016
How One School Overcame 6 Losing Seasons to Get Back To Their Winning Ways [Case Study]

When an organization is failing, no matter if it’s a Fortune 500 corporation, a local church or the evening shift at the local Applebee’s, a turnaround typically dictates a change at the top.

From 2008 to 2013, Westside High School, once a perennial South Carolina gridiron powerhouse with six state championships to its credit, lost its winning ways. Imagine the Community’s angst after six consecutive losing seasons, including two single-win and one no-win campaigns.

And the losing culture transcended the football team: In 2013, there was not a single varsity team at the school with a winning season record!

Given the pride most towns take in their high schools, let alone one with such a storied history, it was clear that changes were needed: Over a span of 90 days, a new principal, a new AD, and a new Head Football Coach were all in place.

All Three Aligned With Great Expectations

The three new leaders shared a common philosophy, a common commitment to excellence and a set of shared expectations for their athletes.

Rayvan Teague, the new AD, summed it up well when he was hired, “I am looking forward to working with Coach Earley and Principal Roberts, and I know we all share the same goal of instilling high expectations for our students.”

Roberts, Teague and Earley are quick to recognize the vision and resource support of Tom Wilson, District 5 Superintendent. And it’s not as if the District is flush with extra budget dollars and unlimited resources: As one indicator, 78% of Westside’s students receive subsidized lunches.

Before joining Westside as AD, Coach Teague had amassed his own 220-69-1 career record as a head football coach with several trips to the state finals. Teague reminds us that the whole point of athletics is to develop well rounded and healthy students, and accordingly, it is necessary to commit resources if you want successful outcomes.

The new Principal, Kory Roberts, was no stranger to football excellence and high expectations, either. His father, William, won six state championships at Westside (yup, the same Westside) in 30 years as the head coach.

Coach Earley inherited a football team coming off of a 1-10 season, their sixth losing season in a row. Yet, at his first all-school assembly, Earley matter-of-factly talked about what it takes to “win State” and the fact that the path to such greatness starts by working hard.

The first game was just six months away and there was no time to waste.

Men of Action…and Results

The new Westside leadership wasted no time in making big changes, starting with hiring full-time, in-building coaches. These coaches could monitor athlete behaviors and make sure they maintained their grades (and eligibility). Working with the curriculum committee, they established a 4th period lifting class for varsity athletes and, the following year, created a second lifting class.

Coach Earley knows what it takes to turnaround a program: He’s done it four times.

His “secret” is his deliberate approach to fixing four backbone elements:

  1. Culture
  2. Chemistry
  3. Academics
  4. Strength and Conditioning

Starting with culture, he spends the first few weeks diagnosing the current situation, followed by 90 days of attacking the identified issues, using “carrots” to pump up the positive energy. He has found that there are always naysayers, so either they embrace the new approach…or they’re out.

He intentionally cultivates a positive environment that attracts student athletes, while emphasizing academic performance and off field behavior as important as athletic performance.



Cascading Expectations in the Weight Room

Athletic Director Teague pulls no punches regarding his expectations for in- and off- season training: If a student athlete doesn’t buy into the weight room

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