Jennifer Clarke – For The Record

“I’m nobody special,” says Coach Josh Smalley, Athletic Director, at Orangefield ISD. He even claims that in his youth he was not a terribly nice guy. One might suggest that if you have met Coach Smalley, one would have a difficult time believing that claim.

“At 22, I was as far away from where I am today, as I could be.”

He credits his turnaround to his family and his faith.

Coach Smalley has always wanted to win, but “after growing up, maturing, meeting my wife, and finding Christ, my view of what I am here to do has changed.” Winning is still important, and he and his assistant coaches work hard with their athletes on the field. But he also believes he has an opportunity to guide his students in more ways than football.

When he came to Orangefield as Athletic Director, he and his fellow coaches set to work building on an existing foundation. They knew how important hard work was for winning, and they also focus on the goal of a district title.

“Our opinion is if you want to raise the bar, you have to raise expectations, and each year we expect to go farther,” he said.

In order to accomplish this, he not only pushes his athletes to improve their work ethic on the field, but he focuses on guiding the whole student, helping them be better people in their daily lives. He seeks that same level of ethic and integrity to translate from the football field to their day to day lives.

In the past, he may have been focused on winning at all costs, but life experience has taught him to view the opportunity he has been given a little more widely.

“We want to win,” he is very clear, but his view of his profession and position changed as he improved his relationship with Christ. Smalley is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and hopes to model what ethics and integrity are to his students.

“I get to influence people in the best possible way,” he suggests. He participates in a coaches’ Bible study, and uses the foundational aspects of his faith to influence him, as a man and a coach. In many ways, football has opened an avenue for expanded ministry and outreach.

His coaching has been heavily influenced by his family and he credits his wife with helping him grow as a coach. “The biggest change I have experienced has been meeting my wife, and our participation in Orangefield ISD is definitely a family experience.”

His wife is the curriculum coordinator and his step-son attends Orangefield ISD. The community, teachers, coaches, school board and superintendent are all invested in the success of the kids, according to Smalley, and no one can be successful alone.

“It takes everybody” working together to build the community programs.

Each year, he may begin with general goals for his team and students, but as he recognizes, “all kids have different goals, and I get to help them achieve their goals in life.” Coach Smalley does not underestimate the gift and responsibility of his position. “I let the kids know I am here for them, I have their back, and I love them. Watching them grow from junior high, to high school athletes to walking across that graduation stage, well, there is no more rewarding job on earth.”

He is grateful for the supportive community he serves and the district in which he works that is dedicated to the kids. “Coaching brings me satisfaction and fulfillment that I don’t think I could find another way. I have always wanted to coach, and getting to be part of countless lives and hopefully influencing them in a positive way” is more than he could ask for. Winning is important, but clearly he recognizes it isn’t everything.

Coach Smalley gets real joy from former students who return knowing that his commitment to them is as strong once they leave his program as the days he coached them on the field. “They come back,” he says.

And perhaps there is no greater testament than that.