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Coach’s Spotlight: Interview with Josey’s John Starr II

The interview below should serve as a reminder that the value of a high school coach cannot always be measured by wins and losses.

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Corey Thomas (8) – Josey

The interview below reminded me that the value of a high school coach cannot always be measured by wins and losses. In his first answer, Coach Starr describes a roster of more than 60 players, which is twice as large as the one he inherited 12 months earlier, practicing diligently for three months in anticipation of Josey’s first game, which finally came several weeks after it was originally scheduled to take place. This steadfastness from a group of players who had seen their school’s team lose 29 straight games could only be inspired by a strong leader, one whose enthusiasm and devotion to his players is exceptional. Josey’s dedication was rewarded on opening night when the Eagles topped Cross Creek 14-8 in overtime.

29 straight losses as a program. 14 days no practice/game cancellations. The opportunity to enjoy this win with all of the kids, coaches, parents and supporters. Things money can’t buy. #ForeverGrateful

So which coach is more valuable, one who wins 10 games in a season, or one who inspires an additional 30 players to make the investment and sacrifice to participate in a sport they otherwise never would have tried, giving them the chance to learn the lessons sports can teach, and to feel the support of their community, win or lose? Read what Coach Starr says below and you might agree with me when I say that if I had a football playing son, I would be thrilled for him to play for a team like Josey.

The Interview

Chad:

Josey opened the season with a win, and you noted on social media that it was the program’s first victory in 29 games. You also noted the difficult start to the season with games being postponed because of Covid complications. I saw the Hephzibah game and despite the result I was encouraged by the team’s effort and spirit. And the following Friday I was also encouraged while I followed the score updates and saw that Josey was hanging with (back-to-back region champion) Jefferson County relatively deep into the game.

Can you describe the difficulty of trying to build winning habits and a positive attitude during these crazy pandemic times, and are you encouraged by your team’s progress in doing so?

John Starr II:

Sure. When we were cleared to resume voluntary workouts in June the character of our program was revealed quickly. Despite a lack of success in recent seasons, our kids, coaches, parents and supporters have been all in from the beginning. The players and coaches came out and worked hard for nearly 4 months before even having the opportunity to play. The parents and community have been supportive and flexible in supporting the program. Whether it be getting the kids to practice or providing donations, nutrition and equipment, the Josey family gets the job done. Our players are great kids who have good attitudes. Practicing as long as we had to before competition created a little fatigue, but the kids kept coming and kept working.

Believe it or not the overwhelming majority of our team is comprised of kids who are new to the sport of football. So although we are disappointed to come up short in a few contests, everyone understands that we are gaining invaluable experience and we genuinely love being with one another. We have 10 seniors who hadn’t seen Josey win a game since the first contest their freshman year. Despite all the belittling they have received, they didn’t transfer or look to find an easy way out. They stayed home, worked hard, and that’s true character and toughness. These kids are incredibly resilient and an inspiration to us all. They have played an instrumental part in creating a strong culture at Josey whether we win 15 games or 0.

Chad:

Wow that is a great description. Thank you. When you say “the overwhelming majority of our team is comprised of kids who are new to the sport of football,” it reminds me that it seems like your roster is much larger now than it was when you took over (December of 2018). Is that true? How many players do you have now, and how many played for the team right before you got there?

John Starr II

Currently we have 61 kids in our program and the year before I took over it was in the low 30’s. We don’t discriminate against kids who have never played or are undersized. Football is an avenue for personal growth and development and it’s our job as coaches to help these young men whether they are Friday night ready or not.

Chad:

Have you made a special effort to reach out to students to make it clear that you want them to participate even if they didn’t play youth football or middle school school ball? Earlier you mentioned the community being supportive. It would be neat to learn about people, either employees of the school or members of the community who care about Josey and its students, who have helped you make the opportunity to play football accessible to more students.

John Starr II

Yes sir. I encourage and reach out to our students about being involved in athletics whether they have experience or not. Football is no different. The employees at Josey go over and beyond to be sure our kids have what they need. They spend extra time assisting athletes as well as notifying coaches when attention may be needed within the classroom. They spend money out of their own pockets supporting fundraisers and donating gift bags for the teams on game days. You can always find our employees at sporting events also which means a lot to everyone. The alumni at Josey does any and everything they can to support our players and school whether it’s donations, buying cleats, jerseys, sweatsuits etc. We never have to worry about small things such as pre game meals because the alumni are always there. The alumni and surrounding community in general play a pivotal role in having successful programs and they certainly are doing their part.

Demarion Calloway (2), Xavier Olds (3) and Jikil Alston (1)

Chad

Reading your words about the community and the alumni makes me happy. Over the years I have seen examples of the pride of the alumni and the Josey community in general, so I believe you.

Help us get to know your players better. I know you are very proud of them.

John Starr II

Let’s start with junior quarterback Demarion Calloway, sophomore wide receiver Xavier Olds and a senior leader, Tony Roundtree Jr., who at 6-3 and 240 is a dominant defensive lineman in our area.

What’s special about these kids is their unique work ethic. Every time Josey is competing those guys are competing. They play sports all year round: football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, track, tennis and soccer (not all of them play every sport, but they all play 3, minimum). All three of these kids show up hours before practice in the summer and lift weights, do drill work on the field and even call team practices and workouts without a coach’s involvement. They love the game of football, but what I love the most is they go out year round and represent the green and gold. And that’s rare to see in kids nowadays. Crazy enough Demarion and Xavier are examples of the kids that weren’t football players and are just now learning the game. Both are second year players.

I would also love to note that senior Jikil Alston and sophomore Jacorin Thomas are not only tremendous players, but they’re also in the top of their classes academically. They are selfless kids and both started at QB for us last year. Although they are both talented enough to start QB for plenty of teams, they have led the team on special teams and defense, and they both make plays as wide receivers. I’m lucky to coach players like that.

Friday’s @AugBball Coverage Schedule

Highlights and updates from Josey’s (1-3, 0-2) road game against Laney (2-3, 2-1) will be shared on the @AugBball timeline on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Also featured on the timelines will be another class 2A, region 4 matchup between Westside (3-3, 2-1) and Butler (2-3, 0-3). Get familiar with Westside by reading the “Snapshot” taken of the Patriots at this link:

Westside’s Homecoming Provides Chance to Build Momentum

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[Livestream] Grovetown vs Evans in Region Battle for Playoff Position

Evans hosts Grovetown and looks to avenge their buzzer beater loss to the Warriors on January 22nd.

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“Sophomore Malik Ferguson picked up a loose ball in the middle of the paint with one second remaining, and right before the fourth quarter buzzer sounded, he released a shot that found its mark to give Grovetown 61-60 win over Evans Friday, a result that threw the top spot in the class 6A, region 5 standings into a three way tie between Grovetown, Evans and Heritage to mark the beginning of the stretch run for the league’s regular season championship. Ferguson’s shot came at the end of a full court dash by Grovetown after head coach Darren Douglas was able to draw up a play during a timeout that was meant to result in a bucket in only six seconds. The play was designed for senior Zach Bell, who eventually fumbled the ball after spinning between defenders at the end of a drive that began near half court after he gathered the ball from freshman Derrion Reid.”

That was Chad Cook’s rundown of the instant classic that these two teams played two weeks ago. That win by Grovetown sets up a must-win scenario for Evans as they look to maintain their footing in the race for a region championship.

Be sure to get your ? ready early because if tonight’s game is as exciting as the last one, you just might forget those jokers altogether!

Streams will be posted here. Tip-off times are as follows:
Girls – 6:30 PM
Boys – 8:00 PM

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Culture

Former Basketball Stars Lead the Way in Business, Community Service, and Artistic Pursuits

Harold Doby, Reggie Middleton and Roman Hill have turned a brand into a business, a lifestyle and a mental framework for impacting their community.

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Reggie Middleton (left) and Harold Doby (right)

On January 4th, the day after Harold Doby’s “Books and Life Lessons” (B.A.L.L.) charitable organization conducted a coat drive to help keep warm some of the most vulnerable people in the downtown area, I spoke with Doby and Reggie Middleton, two lifelong friends and former college and high school basketball stars, at Middleton’s “Came From Nxthing Designer Apparel” shop at 120 James Brown Boulevard. Our interview (below) covered the coat drive, Reggie’s entrepreneurial journey, and the meaning behind the “Came From Nxthing” brand, which originated from the music of Roman Hill, our third interviewee. Hill’s friendship with Doby and Middleton helped sprout a “movement” that has provided a framework for the three former athletes to impact the world through acts of community service, business, art, entrepreneurship and charity.

The interview provided a great chance for me to get reacquainted with two men I’ve watched grow from being boys who excelled in a game, to leaders of their families and their community. I bet others who watched them star at Glenn Hills and Winthrop (Middleton), and at Laney and Augusta University (Doby), will also gain satisfaction from hearing about their continued personal development. For example, Reggie explained how he took advantage of his basketball talent to earn a job playing professional basketball in London. Then he used his experience there to hatch a business idea to bring high-quality fashion for an affordable price to people in his hometown.

Reggie Middleton scored 1,186 points for Winthrop.

Harold’s concern for people who are most in need, whether it be the men and women he personally distributed the coats to earlier this month, or the students in his school he recalled giving clothes and shoes to when he was in grade school, is the original reason for my getting back into contact with the two men I once coached and taught when they were middle schoolers.

Harold Doby distributing coats in downtown Augusta on January 4.

I’m grateful we reconnected because they are a shining example of what can be greatest about sports and the community that builds around such a life journey: strong, caring relationships developed through shared experiences, encounters with adversity, and moments of triumph, as well as failures and hardships. Reggie’s story about how he has been able to take the difficult circumstances of the pandemic and nonetheless thrive in business with his “back against the wall” by drawing on his experiences as a basketball player growing up reinforces something I’ve always believed, that youth sports is great practice for real life. 

Harold Doby and Reggie Middleton, as well as Roman Hill, whom Doby first met as his rapping Augusta University basketball teammate, are winning the game of real life every bit as much as they did when they mastered the game of basketball as younger men.

Look out for news of the next Drive from B.A.L.L. Visit the Came From Nxthing Designer Apparel Facebook page to see Reggie’s merchandise, shop with him online or find store information:

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