With over a decade of paying his dues, loyalty has paid off for Jaybe Shackleford.
Shackleford, 47, was named the new director of athletics for Nation Ford High, starting July 1. Shackleford has been with the school since it opened, serving as assistant boys varsity basketball coach, head ninth grade basketball coach and head girls golf coach, along with teaching several classes as part of the Social Studies curriculum at the school.
He has coached girls’ golf nine of the 11 years he has been at the school.
About 50 applicants applied for the job now held by Brian Turner, who will be retiring effective June 30. The school interview eight candidates with three being brought back for second interviews.
Shackleford said despite being familiar with the school, the process of interviewing was still stressful.
“It was a little nerve wracking just preparing for it and knowing I had to prepare for it,” he said. “I knew I had to prepare very well. I felt like I was well prepare for everything after the first interview. The second interview, I felt very good about that too. I felt very prepared.”
One thing that Shackleford said helped him feel prepared for the job was the fact that he has been acting unofficially as the school’s assistant athletics director for the past several years, helping Turner out on multiple occasions with different duties.
“I have been unofficially doing it because we don’t really have that title,” he said.
While there isn’t much that Shackleford said he would change from a sporting aspect, he said he is looking forward to the job come July.
“I am excited about what we got going on and that I can impact kids at this level,” he said.
“Athletics has been such a huge part of my life. I think it can shape character and build kids in so many different fashions. Now being able to work with the coaches on that level, I feel I can impact kids greater, even more so than in the classroom, because athletics to me is like a family. It is a unique atmosphere being a family and creating a family atmosphere.”
There are some issues that Shackleford will have to see completed, including the opening of new tennis courts at the school, which should be open in time for girls tennis in the fall, as they are being relocated from their current location behind the football field, to behind the baseball field.
“We still have other facility challenges we need to address like more locker rooms, more storage,” he said. “We have a very good coaching staff already built. They are doing great things already. We need to just keep building that forward and build upon what they have done.”
One thing that Shackleford will face is the opening of a third high school in Fort Mill, with Catawba Ridge coming online for the 2019-’20 school year. How that will affect the Falcons’ sports programs is an unknown at this point. Typically, realignment of school attendance zones depletes the teams at legacy schools as students are routed to the new one.
“It will be a challenge for us because it is going to take some of our kids from us,” he said. “We don’t know where the lines are yet, but we will lose some of our population. That will be a challenge. We are looking forward to the challenge and hope to keep things rolling forward and not have any let off.”
Nation Ford could lose some of its coaches to Catawba Ridge when it opens as well, and if anyone knows about that it is Shackleford, who taught and coached at Fort Mill for a year before Nation Ford opened. Being a younger teacher and coach at that point with no seniority, Shackleford was sent to Nation Ford as part of the original staff when the school opened.
Another aspect that helped land Shackleford the job was that the learning curve will be lessened due to the fact he is already a part of the school.
“That is one of the things the coaches expressed to me,” he said. “They know I will do the job to help them to be better at their jobs and another thing is that it will be a smoother transition knowing that I have been here and knowing how things work.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org; @mbanksFM