By RICK WATSON
Coach Fred Yancey is entering his 22nd season as head coach of Briarwood Christian School football, and he has good reason to be excited about the coming year. Not only did he reach a milestone of 200 wins during the 2010 season, but his team was also region champs and runner-up for the state 5A title.
Yancey actually surpassed the 200 mark in 2006, but that number included wins at other schools as well as Briarwood.
For Yancey, playing sports is a way to help kids to grow up. “It’s obviously not the only way,” he said, “but it’s like a laboratory where children can be tested so that one day when they do grow up, they will have already been through some ups and downs.”
Those ups and downs of football have been Fred Yancey’s life. As a boy growing up in Tennessee, he enjoyed football as well as other sports. “I had some really good coaches, and I enjoyed the experience of being around them,” he said.
When his brother, who is five years older, became a coach, it encouraged Yancey to become a coach too. “I took that route, and I never looked back,” Yancey said.
Yancey began his coaching career in his hometown, Memphis, after graduating from Memphis State University. He first served as assistant coach at Overton High School and then head coach at Towering Oaks High School. He later served as head coach at Gatewood High School in Georgia and then athletic director and freshman football coach at Evangelical Christian School in Memphis.
In 1989 Dr. Byrle Kynerd at Briarwood Christian lured him to Birmingham to serve as head coach at the school. He moved with his wife, Sharon, and two children, Allison and Bart, and he’s been here ever since.
When asked what it takes to win at football, Yancey is quick to point out that the first requirement for any successful program is to have a good staff. “Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a really good coaching staff, and they work to help me find quality athletes to come to Briarwood,” he said.
Secondly, he feels that it takes kids that are not afraid of hard work. “The kids here at Briarwood are competitive and want to be the best they can be,” Yancey said. “And they work really hard.”
To be a good athlete, Yancey feels persistence is key to continue to work hard even when no one’s around, no crowds and no games.
“[The players] spend an incredible amount of time in preparation, long before they ever play a game,” Yancey said. The payback for all of their long hours of preparation and practice is when they play those few games in the fall.
The coach said attitude is important too, and kids that don’t have a good attitude usually weed themselves out at Briarwood.
“They would simply be too uncomfortable to play here,” he said.
Yancey is excited about the 40 seniors returning to his team this season.
“We were state runner-ups in 2010, and the kids who will return care a lot,” he said proudly. “I would anticipate that we’ll have a nice year.”
What’s in the future for Yancey? He turned 65 on his last birthday and gets asked from time to time about his future plans. His response? “As long as the good Lord gives me good health, I will continue coaching.”