Rejuvenated Turner ready to keep rolling at Tyner
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Arthur Coefield can't imagine what it used to be like to play football at Tyner Academy.
Or maybe he'd just prefer not to.
The senior lineman is in his fourth and final season playing for Wayne Turner, following the footsteps of his father who played for the legendary coach two decades ago.
Coefield is pushed to the limit both physically and mentally every day by Turner's fast-paced, hard-hitting and hyper-critical style of coaching, yet he's frequently reminded by his father that he's getting off easy.
"My dad tells me how back in his time Coach T was so serious and aggressive with it and how different it is now," Coefield said. "Coach T is still tough, but we have a lot of fun with him, too."
By watching a few minutes of practice, it wouldn't seem like Turner has let up much at all.
The grizzled coach never hesitates to blow a play dead and chew out a blocker for missing an assignment, or get in the face of a much-bigger defensive lineman for getting pushed out of a hole.
He's still loud. He's still intense, and he's still very much in charge.
But even he admits he smiles a little more than he used to.
"I'm nowhere near as hard-nosed and tough as I used to be," said Turner, who has spent nearly four decades on local high school sidelines. "One of our coaches here who quarterbacked for me always says I've done mellowed way out since he was here."
The reality is Turner had little choice in an evolving game and culture.
He noted not only the difference in strength and talent of today's players, but also their personality.
"Kids these days are far more athletic and can do unbelievable things, but they're also not as tough mentally as the kids were a few years back," Turner said. "I don't think I'd have much of a team showing up to practice every day if I still coached the way I did back then.
"I guess you have to take the good with the bad."
That's not to say the personality of today's students hasn't had a positive effect on Turner.
The veteran coach credits this year's big senior class with helping him come out of his shell over the past four years.
"I don't know what it is about this group, but they just come out every day to have a great time and enjoy themselves," Turner said. "That makes it more fun for everybody I guess. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it has certainly rubbed off on me."
The vocal group is led by Coefield, Hasan Miller and Alex Summerville, who have found unique ways to loosen up their rugged coach.
"The best thing is every Wednesday we'll do the 'hump day' thing from that commercial," Miller said with a wide smile. "When we're stretching or getting ready early in practice, someone will always ask T what day it is, and he'll yell back 'Hump Day!'"
But that's not to say that it's all fun and games.
Turner figures to add to his 196-68 career coaching record this fall because he can still strike the proper balance of smiles and structure.
"I can cut the straw pretty short at times," Turner said with a laugh. "If the fun interferes with what I want to get accomplished, they'll know it."
And the players have noticed a trend for when that's about to happen.
"I'm always right by him at practice and every time they mess up he'll huff," said wide receiver Sadik Spence. "Then as he gets real mad his looks will change. That's when I know he's about to go off."
But the good far out-weighs the bad these days for Turner, who stands as the dean of area coaches as he enters his 24th season with the Rams. In an era where coaches seem almost disposable at times, Turner's program stands as the pillar of consistency.
He acknowledged there's been "several times" over the last few years he has thought about retirement, but not recently.
Despite the increased pressure, year-round schedule and grueling grind of being the school's athletic director and wrestling coach in addition to his football duties, a rejuvenated Turner is feeling younger and having more fun than ever before.
"Any time I though about (walking away), I take it one day at a time and usually by the next day I'm back to where I am now," Turner said. "I enjoy the bond and the commitment these kids have, and really I just enjoy coming to work and being around them as much as everything."