Coach Matt McCarty has brought a prominence to Winters football through determination has he continues to build relationships within the program, the school and the community.
Winters football Coach Matt McCarty was raised in Georgetown, Texas where he played football and ran track. After graduation, he attended Angelo State University and earned a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice in 2008. His first job as a coach was in Anson, where he coached receivers and defensive backs. Following Anson he was the receivers coach in Columbus, Texas and then arrived in Bandera where he was receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator.
McCarty came to Winters in 2015 and took over as the head coach for Blizzards football. His philosophy isn’t focused solely on football though, “When players graduate, I went them to continue on and be successful whether in college or on another path. I want them to be good young men who do the right thing for the right reasons. I love to watch the kids play sports but only a few are lucky enough to continue on and play in college and beyond.” He enjoys watching all of the sports and believes that they transcend each other, “You can take something you learned from football and apply it to track or take something from baseball and apply it to soccer or the other way around.”
In his first two seasons the Blizzards went 2-8 each season. Last season he improved and the team went 5-5 during the regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Not one to panic or worry, he just concentrated on fundamentals and properly executing plays. They built on that each practice and each season and it has paid off as they’ve started the 2018 season at 4-0. He teaches the athletes and also respects them as people, “The one thing I’ve learned is a good relationship with your players is crucial. If you have a good relationship with them they play hard for you. Having continuity and being familiar with the coaches is a key. Some of our coaches have been here three years and the players are familiar with them and their style.”
McCarty approaches the game and brings a calm professionalism to an environment that can be chaotic at times. While many other coaches and their staffs are on the field yelling at the officials, McCarty coolly stands on the sidelines, orchestrating his game plan, “Our staff is experienced. We don’t want our kids yelling at the officials so we don’t set that example for them. We tell them to move on to the next play. There is no point in the athletes or our coaches arguing with the officials. A lot of times in rural areas you’ll have the same officials several games a year and you don’t want to be constantly berating or insulting them because they’re human and they’ll remember how you treated them.” His approach to the officiating, to his staff and to his players is the same; respect. McCarty practices what he preaches and stands as an example that good coaching brings good results.
Trust is another key to McCarty’s success as a coach and mentor, “If the kids know that you and the assistant coaches are going to put them in the best position to be successful, it instills trust and confidence. Both of those are keys to success.” He spends a lot of time with players in one-on-one drills to give each player some instruction and work on the fundamentals, “The fundamentals come from individual time and drills. We do things over and over. If you cut out the individual drills, you lose a part of the fundamentals. If they miss any part of practice, it affects the play.”
One central element to McCarty’s approach is that he isn’t just concerned for the kids during athletics, he’s concerned with every facet of their time in school and on the team, “The kids have so much to worry about these days from football to home life to girlfriends. You never know what a kid is going through so you have to pay attention to them. I don’t have kids of my own so I think of the players as my kids. I want to help them and protect them. It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmies and Joes.” His concern also centers on the classroom and ensuring his players are doing well in their studies, “Academics are the most important thing. We make sure our kids go to tutorials and we have study hall after every practice.” His ability to address the athlete as a whole is a keen approach that shows in the effort of the players every day on the practice field and under the lights on Friday nights.
Overseeing a football program cannot be done properly by one person as McCarty acknowledges, “Something that has really helped us here is that the teachers do a great job of communicating with us and letting us know if a student needs help with a subject. We work together to make sure they get the help they need and to pass their classes.” McCarty holds his staff accountable just as he does his players, “If the kids are expected to be on time then the coaches need to be on time.” It’s often that sometimes the student gets lost in the mix of athletics but this doesn’t happen in Winters. McCarty’s concern for his athletes is genuine and he does indeed look out for them from the classroom to the football field. He is highly thought of by the other school staff members and parents as well as the students.
McCarty’s attention to players starts at the junior high level. He attends all of the games and observes the players during their practices, “If you’re building a program, you have to start with the junior high kids. We’re there at practices and that’s when we start building those relationships. You have to know them but you also want them to know you. This is our first year to have a 6th grade pre-athletics class. You see these kids every day and they see us so we start building on that. We ensure that the fundamentals are taught at the lowest level so we can build on that as well.” His holistic approach to football is an all-encompassing endeavor and requires complete dedication. McCarty has a tenacity and blazing fire that you can see burns deep inside him when you talk to him about football and athletics.
When it comes to coaching winning is paramount but that is not the only aspect of coaching that McCarty considers, “I think all coaches have times where we’re so caught up in the winning part that you have to sit back and think if what you’re doing is the best thing for the kids in the long run. Winning keeps your job but what happens to the kids in the long run is important.”
McCarty’s team has flourished this year, both on offense and defense. He works on every part of the game during practice and does not necessarily change his game plan with each game, “Our style of football isn’t something the other teams see all of the time. When teams come in it’s a challenge for them to stop us.” So far there are no teams that have been able to stop them. The Blizzards have averaged 38 points per game while only giving up an average of 5 points per game. Opponents have not been able to run the ball nor have they been able to pass. The Blizzards’ players play with the same passion for the game that McCarty has. The relationship he’s built with them individually and as a team has them playing unstoppable football. They’re playing well on offense, defense and special teams as McCarty point outs, “It makes playing offense a lot easier if your defense can hold your opponents to five or six points. This is the second year we’ve done well at stopping the run. We have defensive line players like Cameron Perkins who is 6’3”, 240 lbs, who has strength and speed. Cameron can run faster than some of the skill players. Our entire defensive line is fast and strong. Usually you’ll have a kid who is fast but maybe not strong or who is strong but not fast. We have those rare players that are a combination of the two.”
McCarty and his coaches approach the players in the same manner, “A lot of coaches have different approaches. Most of us on our coaching staff go about correcting things the right way. Kids respond better when you talk to them as people rather than if you go yelling in their faces. Some kids respond to that and some will shut down. There are those times where you will have to raise your voice and let it be known. If you yell in a player’s face in front of a stadium full of people you won’t be helping anything.”
Being a coach at any level takes determination and sacrifice. McCarty got married to Tana in March of this year. His wife is a nurse who works nights in Abilene, “Sometimes we go two or three days barely seeing each other.” He’s out of the door before 6 a.m. and doesn’t usually get home until 7:30 p.m. or later. McCarty says that one of the aspects many people aren’t aware of is the family support, “People don’t realize the sacrifice our families make and they don’t always get enough praise for everything that they have to put up with such as the time we spend away from home. They do a great job of supporting us and do not get enough credit.” His loyalty to his staff and players is deep seated. His grandfather was a coach and he says, “My mom and I still have people that come up to us and tell us, “L.G. Henderson made an impact on my life.” If our kids get in a tough spot ten years down the road, I want them to think back to us and maybe what we’d do in their place and hopefully that will help them out.”
The town of Winters strongly and loyally supports the Blizzards for which McCarty is appreciative, “We have great kids and a great town that is very supportive. I probably have fewer parent conferences than 95% of the coaches out there. The parents are supportive of the kids, athletics and the school overall.”
The ingredients for football success are there in that field house and on that field at Winters high school, being brought together every day by McCarty’s vision and approach. Loyalty and respect are a two-way street and they flow freely between McCarty, his coaches and his players. His approachability and manner ensure that the lines of communication between him, the staff and the parents are always open. Those traits together build a positive foundation for the players and for the football program as a whole. McCarty’s astute leadership is the key to bringing it all together and making it work, and it does work every day for every athlete in the program and maybe beyond high school.