FOUR QUESTIONS…A CONVERSATION WITH SCOTT BRASWELL
Scott Braswell has served as the head football coach at Hoggard since 1997 and has guided what has become one of the state’s top programs under his leadership. Hoggard won the NCHSAA state 4-A championship in 2007 and went 13-1 last fall, losing in the Eastern finals to eventual state champion New Bern. He has earned the Mideastern Conference Coach of the Year honor 11 times and has posted an excellent 168-51 mark as a head coach. In 2013 the stadium at Hoggard was named Scott Braswell Stadium in his honor.
The Hoggard coach is very supportive of other teams at the school, even driving the bus to away games for other programs. He has been active in his church and the community in Wilmington, with such organizations as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Habitat for Humanity, and recently was named “Inspiration Hero to Kids” by the Wilmington Children’s Museum.
Braswell also has showed remarkable tenacity as he battled health issues. He had surgery at the Mayo Clinic in August to remove a rare mass on his spine, with the operation taking 25 hours over a two-day period. He was named the winner of the NCHSAA’s Toby Webb Award as well as a Courage Award at the recent NCHSAA Annual Meeting.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in high school football during your career?
The strength and conditioning programs have become so advanced and critical to the success of a football program. When I started in the early eighties, weight rooms were pretty sparse and working out was more of a novelty than a critical ingredient in a football program.
Specialization, regretfully, has just taken off. It used to be if you were an athlete, you played at least two if not all three seasons. Now, I think kids are pushed into specialization by parents and youth coaches. It’s a shame, because the overwhelming majority of kids are not getting a scholarship, and the kids are robbed of the joy of playing a different sport, and miss out on the opportunity to interact with different classmates and coaches on different teams. We also see the rise of recurring use injuries. Football was my passion, but I loved playing basketball and baseball. I think playing multiple sports makes you more well-rounded as an athlete and as a person.
Related to specialization, the “helicopter” parents who over manage their child’s athletic career have a different set of expectations now. I started at West Charlotte in the early eighties, and our parents were busy trying to make a living and just appreciated that we had their kids with us after school every day. Now parents expect you to get their child a scholarship, and will change high schools in pursuit of that glory for their child. The parents miss the fact that the real benefit coming from their child playing sports comes in the lessons learned on discipline, work ethic, perseverance, sacrifice, loyalty, deferred gratification, and goal setting, to name a few.
What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them? You have coached some outstanding teams during your great career.
I have been a part of some exhilarating victories, and part of some devastating losses. I always took the games very personal—I am sure it was unhealthy. The game brings us some of the highest highs, and some of the lowest lows. The thing I take away most, though, is all the relationships over the years with fellow coaches and players. I have had a blast coaching.
I loved the sport, but I loved the interaction with the young people the most. The player-coach relationship is kind of sacred to me. The only thing I can compare it to is the father-son relationship. I have always cherished a player sticking his head in my office to say “hello,” or to ask me how I am doing. When the kids come back years after graduation and introduce their wife and a child, or when they come back after a military deployment overseas, there is a great sense of gratification. You know they have come back because you made a difference in their lives—that is the high school coach’s paycheck.
You have been a real inspiration to many as you battled health issues and continued to coach. Where did you find the strength and stamina to come back so quickly from such serious surgery to be back on the sideline just five weeks later?
A lot of my desire to get back came from how attached I was to our senior class. They were a special bunch of guys who loved to come to practice every day. They had a great work ethic, great team leadership, and a wonderful attitude about playing ball. I had to get back to them. Getting back on the sideline helped take my mind off of all the medical issues. I was humbled to think that someone took any inspiration from me fighting to get back coaching.
What are some of the activities you are involved in away from athletics?
With all the demands of being an athletic director, I mostly just look for time to spend with my family. I have a son who is a GA at Charlotte with Coach Lambert, and my younger son is in his first year of medical school at UNC. My wife and I try to see them every chance we get. Before the surgeries, I really enjoyed running. I hope to re-gain the ability to run and work out. Believe it or not, my wife has gotten me into birding. I like being outdoors and getting exercise, so birding has become a big pastime for the two of us.