2014-16 Region: 8-AAAA
New head coaches this year: Bill Forman, football; Kyle Barr, wrestling; Adam Rich, softball; Stacey Merck, girls track & field; Chad Pittman, boys basketball
Ben Corley’s background could go a long way toward making him a coach’s best friend.
The new Chestatee athletic director has been a head coach in high school football, boys and girls basketball and golf, giving him a diversified, up-close perspective about the unique challenges each high school sports program faces.
He’s also spent time at five different schools in Northeast Georgia, ranging in size from Class AA Union County to Class AAAAA Winder-Barrow, where he guided student-athletes from a wide variety of demographics and socio-economic backgrounds. Corley hopes those experiences will help him in his new role at Chestatee, where the War Eagles’ sports programs continue pushing toward new milestones.
The Times sports editor Jared Putnam sat down with Corley to discuss the new Chestatee athletic director’s diverse coaching experience and outlook on the future of Chestatee athletics, as part of a series of question-and-answer sessions with area athletic directors.
As a graduate of North Hall, how exciting was it for you to be able to take over an athletic director position essentially in your old backyard in the north end of Hall County?
“It’s a great opportunity for me and my family to come back to my home and sort of reestablish some relationships. It’s just great to be back in this community and a part of where I grew up.
“I get a chance to go back to church where I grew up, with my mother and my brother and his family. And it’s in proximity to my dad and my wife’s parents, so those have all been great benefits for us to be back in this part of Hall County. The move to Chestatee has certainly been good for my commute, too.”
Obviously you weren’t here to see much of it, but what stands out to you about what Chestatee’s sports programs were able to accomplish last season? It was a great year for the football team, winning its first playoff game in program history, and for the girls basketball team to win their first region title.
“Having played against Chestatee the last couple years, we’ve been able to see their growth as a program first-hand in football and boys and girls basketball. I think the boys program is going to rebound nicely and that program has a chance to take off.
“The football program, I’ve been impressed with the foundation they’ve laid in terms of playing a physical brand of football that is tough-minded. I think that matches the nature of our kids.
“Coach Daniel has done an outstanding job with the girls basketball program. He’s an excellent, fundamental teacher, and as a result, I think our girls basketball program will be pretty good year-in and year-out. They’ve got a nice process in place that allows them to be consistently competitive.
“The same is true for the growth of our soccer program. I got here in time to see both the boys team and the girls team play in the state tournament, and that was exciting. The volleyball program made strides this year, and cross country had a very good season, both boys and girls, so we’re seeing the maturity of a lot of the programs in our school. We’re certainly excited about that, and hopeful and expectant for those trends to continue.
“I think, top to bottom in just about every sport, Region 8-AAAA is going to be about the toughest region in Georgia in every sport, regardless of classification. I think it’ll be the most competitive at the very least, what with those seven playoff teams from a year ago and quality teams in all the other sports.”
Region 8-AAAA becomes much tougher this season with the additions of schools like North Hall, North Oconee, White County and Buford. How much tougher does that make things for Chestatee?
“It’s going to make for an exciting contest every night, regardless of what sport you’re playing. Although it will make it more challenging to make the playoffs, once you get in you’re seasoned and ought to be prepared for anyone else, regardless of what seed you are. I think it prepares our teams for state competition and hopefully for runs deeper into the tournament.
“All of the teams in this league are going to be good. I think it’s a great challenge for us, but a challenge we’re excited about. It’s going to be a challenge for Chestatee, but it’s also going to be a challenge for all those other teams to come play us as well. We’re certainly not shy about the competition; we’re looking forward to it. It makes for a great atmosphere every time the whistle blows.”
You’ve been a head coach in football, golf and both boys and girls basketball. How does that variety of experience help you relate to the needs of your coaches across such different sports?
“I think it gives me a perspective from which I can see the whole program. Having that varied experience, I guess, has given me an opportunity to see the athletic program from the girls side, from the side of a revenue generator, from the side of a non-revenue generator.
“It’s also given me an appreciation for the value of every program and the importance of letting those programs know that they are important to the overall sports program and school. Each one of those teams, regardless of how many kids are involved, is the most important one to its kids and coaches, and they need to feel like their voice is being heard and their needs are being met. I think my experience helps me understand that a little bit better.”
You’ve also been at a variety of schools: Union County, Clarke Central, Winder-Barrow, West Hall and now Chestatee. What have your experiences at those schools taught you about high school athletics?
“It’s been my experience that every school has challenges that are unique and challenges that are universal. Having seen a variety of programs that varied socioeconomically and demographically, what I’ve come to realize is that underneath all that, kids are kids. They want discipline, they want love, they want respect and they need to learn how to accept those things and give those things to other people.
“They want and need all that, and it doesn’t matter what their demographics are or what their socio-economic status is, those needs, for kids, are universal. Underneath it all, they’re all pretty much the same.”
Most of the schools in Hall County remained in the same classification during the most recent GHSA realignment, including Chestatee. But what do you see for the future? How is Chestatee’s growth trending right now?
“Our growth is minimal. I think we’re going to be fairly solid in (Class) AAAA. We weren’t the biggest AAAA school, but we weren’t the smallest. We’re solidly in the middle. I believe that’s where we’ll stay for a while.”
What do you want to accomplish here at Chestatee?
“The thing we want to do here at Chestatee is focus on the championship process. Titles are a great thing, but you’re not in position to win one every year. Competition is better some years than it is in others, your talent level rises and falls, but you’re championship process should be in place so that when the opportunity does come ... you’ll have an opportunity to win it.
“The championship process is about commitment and toughness and discipline and effort. If you teach those things to your kids, not only will you have a chance to develop a championship team, you’ll have championship people. That’s really the over-arching goal, to help kids understand that process so they carry that on into life after high school.”