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Batchelor takes over at Southern Nash

Posted on June 20, 2021

SportsSchool Sports
Brian Batchelor goes over a drill during a Southern Nash High football preseason practice on Aug. 2, 2019. Batchelor, a 1997 Southern Nash graduate, was named as the Firebirds' new head coach on June 7, succeeding longtime head coach Brian Foster.

Paul Durham | Restoration NewsMedia

Brian Batchelor goes over a drill during a Southern Nash High football preseason practice on Aug. 2, 2019. Batchelor, a 1997 Southern Nash graduate, was named as the Firebirds' new head coach on June 7, succeeding longtime head coach Brian Foster.

Brian Batchelor, middle, signals a touchdown on the Southern Nash sideline as head coach Brian Foster, right, looks on during a game against Bunn on Sept. 3, 2015, at Southern Nash. Batchelor succeeds Foster as the Firebirds' new head coach as of June 7.

Sheldon Vick | Special to The Enterprise

Brian Batchelor, middle, signals a touchdown on the Southern Nash sideline as head coach Brian Foster, right, looks on during a game against Bunn on Sept. 3, 2015, at Southern Nash. Batchelor succeeds Foster as the Firebirds' new head coach as of June 7.

Brian Batchelor goes over a drill during a Southern Nash High football preseason practice on Aug. 2, 2019. Batchelor, a 1997 Southern Nash graduate, was named as the Firebirds' new head coach on June 7, succeeding longtime head coach Brian Foster.

Paul Durham | Restoration NewsMedia

Brian Batchelor goes over a drill during a Southern Nash High football preseason practice on Aug. 2, 2019. Batchelor, a 1997 Southern Nash graduate, was named as the Firebirds' new head coach on June 7, succeeding longtime head coach Brian Foster.

Brian Batchelor, middle, signals a touchdown on the Southern Nash sideline as head coach Brian Foster, right, looks on during a game against Bunn on Sept. 3, 2015, at Southern Nash. Batchelor succeeds Foster as the Firebirds' new head coach as of June 7.

Sheldon Vick | Special to The Enterprise

Brian Batchelor, middle, signals a touchdown on the Southern Nash sideline as head coach Brian Foster, right, looks on during a game against Bunn on Sept. 3, 2015, at Southern Nash. Batchelor succeeds Foster as the Firebirds' new head coach as of June 7.

Brian Batchelor, middle, signals a touchdown on the Southern Nash sideline as head coach Brian Foster, right, looks on during a game against Bunn on Sept. 3, 2015, at Southern Nash. Batchelor succeeds Foster as the Firebirds' new head coach as of June 7.
Brian Batchelor goes over a drill during a Southern Nash High football preseason practice on Aug. 2, 2019. Batchelor, a 1997 Southern Nash graduate, was named as the Firebirds' new head coach on June 7, succeeding longtime head coach Brian Foster.

paul@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7808

Brian Batchelor didn’t know it, but he was destined to be the next varsity football head coach at Southern Nash High long before it became a reality on June 7.

Batchelor, one of the longest-tenured assistants on outgoing head coach Brian Foster’s staff, was handed the keys to the castle when Foster’s retirement became official. One of seven former Southern Nash players on Foster’s eight-man coaching staff, Batchelor was tabbed to become the 12th head coach in the school’s 53-year history.

“It goes back to what I wanted 24 years ago, and that was to get people back who played for me, who understand the community. And Brian was the person I thought would be the next head coach,” Foster said. “I mean, he didn’t know that when I got him because he had no idea he was even going to coach, but when I finally talked him into doing it, that was my long-term goal.”

Batchelor, a former four-sport star and a 1997 Southern Nash graduate, was humbled by the appointment. But he made it clear that there’s no replacing Foster.

“I can’t be Brian Foster,” he said. “I could never live up to that, so I’m going to have to be me and live up to the standard of the program that he set. I think that’s our mark of success year-in and year-out, and that mark of success doesn’t start with how many games we’re winning or how many conference championships we’re winning. It’s how many good people we’re building.

“My No. 1 goal for anybody associated with our program — players, coaches, trainers, student assistants, whatever — is they’re going to be better people because they were involved with Southern Nash football. And if we can live up to that standard, everything else will take care of itself because at the end of the day, that’s pretty much the only thing that matters, in my opinion. Other people may see it different ways, but I’ve had a lot of good coaches and mentors that all believe that same philosophy, and I’d be a fool not to follow in that in that way.”

Batchelor, who coached offensive and defensive line and was the Firebirds’ offensive coordinator, said there won’t be many changes, if any, from the way Foster ran the program for two dozen years.

“I know this sounds cliché, but what we’re going to try to do is live up to the standard that has been set,” Batchelor said. “And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”

By that, Batchelor means the Firebirds will still operate out of the double-wing formation on offense and still run the same defense, but that also means working within the personnel to come up with the best plan.

“One of the best things I’ve learned from Brian. ... You’ve got to figure out the best position to put your kids in for them to be successful,” Batchelor said. “We’re going to do the same thing on defense, we’re going to do the same on offense, the same thing on special teams. What I mean by the same thing is we’re going to continue to do what fits our kids and puts them in the best situation.”

Despite going 3-4 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009 during a spring 2021 season delayed and shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Firebirds are still in good shape to return to a semblance of dominance they enjoyed from 2015-19, when they won their first 15 games before losing to Charlotte Catholic in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A championship game, the first title bid in Southern Nash history.

“I really do think we can be good this year,” Foster said, “So I think that’s good for Brian just to come into a situation where you’ve got a chance to have a good team. Getting some of the kids back that were ineligible last year will be good, and so there’s some possibilities to have a good season this year, I think.”

But Batchelor is facing something Foster never did: Rebuilding after a pandemic.

“Other than being in practice with the guys or taking care of fields, 100% of my time has been on the phone trying to track down kids to just get a handle on them,” Batchelor said. “In a normal year, we would have all of our kids identified, every single grade 8 through 11 end of February, and we would have a program going from March forward. And now we basically had to do that on June 7, and then on top of that, you’ve got kids dealing with summer school, you’ve got kids that maybe used to be on the edge of wanting play, and now they’ve got to jump right into it and they’re not as motivated. It’s not anything we’re going through, it’s what everybody’s going through. So it’s not a Southern Nash issue, but it’s definitely something that people are going to have to deal with as far as just knowing where your kids are.”

For Batchelor, he’s excited to have a chance to make his own mark at his alma mater.

Batchelor went on to play football at William & Mary after he graduated from Southern Nash. He graduated from W&M in December 2002 and started working at Southern Nash in 2001. A social studies and history teacher by profession, Batchelor also coached track and field for 16 years, stepping aside after the 2017 season. He and his wife, Jenny, have three children — Emma, 11; Addie, 9, and Andrew, 3.

“So far, everything has been awesome,” Batchelor said. “Our guys have been working out. And what’s weird too now is we’ve still got three sports going on. When we started last week, we still had wrestling, track and baseball going on. And one thing about us is we do a good job maximizing our athletes in football and in all other sports, too. Our kids play a lot of different sports. We don’t have a lot of kids who specialize in stuff, which I think good because I think it makes them happy to compete year-round.

“So, our kids have been showing up. We had guys the other day that went to track practice, came to football workout, left the football field and went to the basketball workout and then played a baseball game that night. Now, tell me those kids ain’t all in!”

For Batchelor, his ultimate success as a head coach will be measured the same way Foster measured his own success.

“The time and the effort that we’re spending and doing what we’re doing, it’s got to be more about just winning a football game or losing a football game,” Batchelor said. “We’re not out there for a little bit of time, we’re not out there for a whole lot of money. We spend a whole lot of time and make a whole lot of sacrifices. Our kids spend a whole lot of time and make a whole lot of sacrifices, but at the end of the day, if it just comes down to whether we’re winning or losing, and that’s the ultimate evaluation, then we’re falling short of, like I keep saying, we’re falling short of the standard that’s been set at Southern Nash.

“So, can you follow a guy like Brian or replace a guy like Brian? Absolutely not. But you can try to live up to the standard that he established.”

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