Let me be the first to say on here that I was wrong. Coach Atha has done a wonderful job at Darlington in his tenure. He is a perfect fit for the small private school tucked away in Northwest Georgia.
Coach what was it like coaching under Coach Sharpe and following him?
Coach Tommy Atha-" Being honest it was always a tremendous opportunity for me to coach under coach Sharp.
I had so much respect for him when I was coming up as a player. When he called and asked me to come work for him, I jumped at the opportunity. It was such a blessing for me, because I got to learn so much working under him. Coach Sharp is the best detail guy I have ever been around.He didn't leave a stone unturned and he harped on the little things daily. His teams didn't make very many mistakes.
Two things that helped me transition into the job were that Coach Sharp wanted me to get the position and he also stayed on as the AD. He was still there as a resource and I was not too proud to walk into that office ask a question or his advice at anytime.
What makes it more difficult being a private school as opposed to a public school?
Coach Atha-" The academic rigor that is placed on the kids is a major difference. I know there are kids in every program public or private that has strict requirements, but here every kid does.
It is not uncommon for me to have a player be 30 minutes late to practice because of a test or going to see a tudor. That is just part of it here. I have to be very flexible as a coach. Our practices are limited to 2 hrs everyday. That is school policy and that is to help make sure our kids are getting there academics taking care of each night. We also have kids that drive 45 minutes one way to school everyday.
You went from AA to A last year? Do you think your kids were surprised at the level of competetion?
Coach Atha-" I think a couple of things about that. We knew we were going to have a young ball club. In 7AA we played a full region schedule and moving down to 6A we only had 6 region games. We played a good Murphy, NC team along with eventual State Champion in Wesleyan. Add Ridgeland who won there region in AAA and Chattooga and we had a very tough challenge for our young ball club. The single A region we dropped into is a football region with Bremen, Bowdon, Trion, Gordon Lee and those types of teams. We had our hands full all year long with that schedule.
What are you looking for out of your 2009 team?
Coach Atha-" I think we played more young kids than we have ever played in 2008. We hope that is going to pay off for us. We felt like we got away from some of the things that we have had success in the past last year. We are going to get back to what we do best as a team and staff. There will be alot of focus on getting back to the fundamentals."
Rusty Final Word- Darlington was up and down last year and had some key injuries. They proved they belong by beating Ridgeland and Wesleyan early in the year. Tylon Garret, Alex Sentell, Cameron Gibson, Shaq Calhoun are all kids that should star on this team. Keep a eye on the tigers in 09, I look for them to make a deep run into the playoffs.