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Coach Paul Ward

Lessons in Leadership
Paul Ward set a high standard in coaching

As I stated last week, I think that the development and continuance of the football program at Huntingdon High
School under Paul Ward during the 1950’s, 60’s and mid 70’s was not by chance but was a well planned endeavor.
The development of his philosophy was most likely the culmination of his life experiences, especially as an
athlete at Huntingdon High School and Murray State, a sailor serving his country during World War II, and as an
assistant football coach at Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central working with Joe Ted Herndon.
There is a misnomer surrounding athletics that talent is enough to win. Win maybe, but not big or for long. The
program Coach Ward built was for the long haul. The fact that his legacy endures to this day is amazing.
As some of you know, I am from Hollow Rock and played basketball and football at Central. What I know about
Coach Ward for the most part is a collection of information from people who played and worked for him during his
tenure at HHS, with Jimmy Pritchard supplying the majority of the material.
In last week’s article, I identified components of leadership that I thought were obvious when examining Coach
Ward’s body of work. Upon beginning to write this article, I realized that if I discussed them all it would take a
book. Instead I have chosen to discuss a few of them that clearly set his body of work apart.
From the outside looking in, I always assumed that Coach Ward had total control over his program and
micromanaged every aspect of the operation. You can imagine how surprised I was to discover the degree to which
he shared power with some of his players.
Jimmy described “skull sessions” that occurred through the week when knowledge would be passed on to the
players. I found out that on Friday nights Tim Priest had the freedom to call his own plays and Jimmy called the
defense. This principal lines up with shared ownership. This practice gives your associates a stake in the investment.
One player told me the story of a conflict that developed in his family regarding either going to practice or revival
services at his church during a particular week and how Coach Ward resolved the issue. When the player nervously
delivered the news, he was relieved to discover that Coach Ward sided with his father. The player was also told that
this would not affect his playing status. This is refreshing to me as I have heard of coaches who thought everything
should revolve around their team. Needless to say Paul Ward moved up to another level with me after hearing this
Some coaches are only involved with the community during their particular playing season. This was not the case
with Coach Ward as he coached baseball and taught swimming in the off season. In other words, he wasn’t just a
football coach; he was an active part of the community.
Jimmy stated that in today’s world Coach Ward would have gotten hired as an offensive line coach by some
college as his mastery of fundamentals, techniques, and motivation were well advanced. In short, he said that Ward
was the best he ever saw. Like all great coaches, he had the ability to make players believe they could accomplish
There is much more I could write, but as Ron Park reminds me each week, “Don’t write a book.”
Next week I will document the rise of the Hollow Rock-Bruceton football program under Rod Sturdivant. In 20
plus years at the head of the program, his teams set marks that will be hard to surpass.

The first of these is Confidence in Self, Goal Orientation, Clear Chain of Command. To begin your head coaching
career with three losing seasons would probably be such a shock to the ego that most people would probably lose

confidence in themselves. In the same vein it is obvious that he knew what he was looking for as I don’t think you
could accomplish what he did in a haphazard manner. Finally there was never a doubt of who was in charge which is
important when you consider that everyone has an opinion.
Organization and Time Management are key components of every organization. The goal is to make the most of
every moment as you have a limited time for maximum results. In teaching we call them teachable moments. A
good example is church services when the baby’s start to cry it’s over. Working with only one assistant he had to be
a master of both. I appreciate this more than most as I once coached 38 players by myself.
Great coaches-teachers must be great motivators who can get their players-students to accomplish more than they
thought possible. This was a factor many people listed plus the fact that their practices were harder than the games.

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