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SERIES: Caring for students, athletes has fulfilled Chestatee's Shaun Conley as he enters 30th season of his career
Chestatee practice
Chestatee coach Shaun Conley instructs its football practice Aug. 4, 2021 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

Shaun Conley has always kept things in perspective.

The Chestatee High football coach has seen some changes since he first got into this game. 

However, there are a few things that have not changed for him. 

Mainly, his passion for football and the desire to build up young men into becoming responsible adults has endured.

And as a veteran in the business, who has experienced all the highs and lows of coaching, he’s ready to get it going in 2021. 

On Friday, the War Eagles visit Cherokee Bluff (1-0) to open the season in Flowery Branch.

Coming off a winless season, Chestatee has reason for optimism, returning an experienced group, which is readying itself with four non-region games before facing No. 1 Jefferson and No. 7 Flowery Branch, among others, in a gauntlet known as Region 8-4A. 

For the War Eagles’ fifth-year coach, it’s still about the relationships that make it just as fun in Year 30 of his career. 

The world has certainly changed, Conley said, but kids wanting to play football remains consistent. 

“It has changed so much, but sometimes the kids get a bad rap,” Conley said. “I don’t know if it is the kids. Society has changed a little bit as a whole. It has been really enjoyable.”

Conley, 54, is a football ‘lifer’ who has enjoyed the journey on the sideline. 

Five years into being Chestatee’s head coach, he is appreciative of what is around him on a regular basis. 

There is the support from the community, administration, the school staff and the War Eagles coaching staff. 

And, this season will be especially exciting as Chestatee breaks in its new synthetic playing surface against Union County on Sept. 3.

Conley, who is originally from Blairsville, played football for one year at the University of West Georgia. 

Making ends meet, in college, for Conley, included painting chicken coops, — which further instilled his work ethic and desire to get into coaching. 

As an assistant coach for 25 seasons, Conley spent time at White County, Union County, Flowery Branch and Peachtree Ridge. 

Coaching in different areas with vastly ranging student populations has further instilled, for Conley, that kids generally have more in common than not. 

“The bottom line is they’re kids,” Conley said. “They want to be loved on and coached up. It is always what I’ve tried to do.”

Conley and his wife Sydney, who were high school sweethearts, have four children. 

In fact, Conley’s sons Jake and Logan are part of his football staff at Chestatee. 

They’ve watched their father travel through this football maze with a smile on his face.

As sons, former players and current colleagues, these two have a unique perspective about the Chestatee coach.

“I’ve looked up to my dad for a lot of years,” War Eagles defensive back coach Jake Conley said. “Growing up, I watched him pour into a lot of kids. It is super cool to be able to pull the rope in the same direction as him.

“You’re in there and you have the work boots on with him. He is a big perspective guy.”

The elder Conley has always hammered perspective into his children and players.

“He is doing what he loves,” Logan Conley, who is wide receivers coach, said. “He has always talked about doing what you love. You can tell when he goes home at night, he is happy.”

When the school year ends, Shaun Conley would be eligible to retire, but that is the furthest thing from his mind. 

He looks forward to building the program and players. His legacy as a coach will not be measured by wins and losses.

“I always thought to leave a legacy where I would have won a bunch of games or something,” Conley said with a smile. “Really, though, I want these kids to know I loved them for who they are. Nothing to do with their ability or contribution to football. Just for being them.”

As for retirement:

“I love doing what I’m doing,” Conley said. “I feel good. Why would I retire? If I stop doing this, I have to go to work (on the honey-do list).”

Friday’s schedule

East Hall vs. West Hall

Cherokee Bluff vs. Chestatee

Flowery Branch vs. Dawson County

Gainesville at Chattahoochee

North Hall vs. Stephens County

Lanier Christian at King’s Way Christian

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