By Gene Galin
Siler City, NC – The Chatham Central Bears gear up for the upcoming football season under the guidance of their new head coach, Derrin Little. In a media event held on August 15, Coach Little shed light on his expectations for the team, the progress they’ve made, and his plans to invigorate the football program at Chatham Central High School. With an experienced group of senior players and a passionate coaching staff, Coach Little is determined to change the culture and restore excitement to Chatham Central football.
A Strong Foundation in Seniors
Coach Little, who took the helm of the Chatham Central Bears earlier this year, is optimistic about the group of players he inherited. He expressed his enthusiasm for working with a talented senior class, including Omar, Broward, Aidan Holton, Aiden Johnson, Connor, and Kitchens, with Aiden Johnson being the only non-senior among them. Little highlighted the positive opportunity that arises from having a robust senior presence, noting, “I feel like it’s a great opportunity; I came into a good senior group.”
One key aspect Little emphasized was the wish for more time with this group. “I really wish I could get them a couple more years,” he shared. “We’d probably be cooking with gas then.”
Building Team Unity and Performance
As a first-year coach, Coach Little emphasized the importance of evaluating his own performance and getting the team to mesh together. “The biggest thing is getting the boys to execute” he said. “I’ve had opportunities to manage games before, but I think I’ll really be evaluating myself. Just really seeing how well I can do it. You know, how well we can get the guys to mesh together, which I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that so far.”
Coach Little also praised the team’s improved mental fortitude. “The biggest improvement from watching the film honestly is that it looks like they got the love back. If you were to watch a game last year, probably midway through the second quarter, definitely halftime, you’d see the heads drop and they probably felt like, you know, hey we’re out of this one. We don’t have a chance. You look at them right now; I mean obviously we’re getting them in shape. But outside of that they ain’t afraid of nothing.”
A Mother’s Influence
Little’s connection to Chatham Central runs deep, as his mother attended the school. When asked about who was happier about him landing the coaching role, himself or his mother, Little didn’t hesitate to answer, “Probably her. Hands down.” He elaborated on his mother’s involvement, explaining how her background as a high school coach has been invaluable to him as he embarks on rebuilding the team.
Coach Little’s mother, a former high school coach herself, has played a crucial role in guiding him. “Even more so, being able to lean on her as a high school coach herself. I watched her build two programs from the ground up new. Coming into this situation that was going to be a complete rebuild. So she’s definitely been a great sounding board along the way and it’s given me some nice ideas to get things going,” he shared.
Little’s mother has provided him with a wealth of advice, much of which centers on keeping the community at the forefront. “The biggest thing that she has done is just making sure that I keep the community first,” Little shared. His mother’s focus on community engagement has been instrumental in his approach to coaching, as he aims to create a positive impact on the school and its surroundings.
On-Field Improvements and Player Development
Coach Little observed a significant improvement in his team’s attitude and resilience on the field. Comparing their performance to the previous season, he noted, “The biggest improvement from watching the film honestly is that it looks like they got the love back.” He emphasized their newfound fearlessness and unity, praising their dedication to facing challenges head-on.
Upcoming Challenges and Ambitions
Chatham Central is part of the 1A/2A Mid-Carolina conference, which brings all four Chatham County schools together. Coach Little and his team are preparing for their first match against Jordan-Matthews, scheduled for September 8th. Despite the challenges presented by talented opponents, Little’s focus remains on his own team’s growth and development.
Coach Little expressed his thoughts about the upcoming season, “The biggest thing that we’re trying to do right now is change the culture and bring the excitement back. So you know we want to have a very, very nice experience that night [against Jordan-Matthews on September 8th] and hopefully, you know it’ll be even nicer if we can come out with a win.”
Changing the Culture
When asked about his goal of changing the culture, Coach Little explained, “The biggest thing is, like I said earlier, you know those guys at halftime they felt like they were out of the game, heads were down. I cannot tell you that all of them loved football last year. You look at us right now and you come to the practices and the different excitement things that were changing. They have that love back and they’re ready to play ball. So that’s the first part of the culture and the rest of it is getting the rest of the community to do the same thing.”
He contrasted this with the current atmosphere at practice, where the players have rediscovered their passion for the game and are excited to be on the field.
Looking Ahead: The Five-Year Plan
Looking forward, Coach Little shared his Five-Year Plan, “In five years from now, we can say that we’ve got a functioning JV program then we’ll move on to the next phase. But that’s what we’re working on right now. Building up the numbers and really trying to bring back football to the community.”
Coach Little has a clear vision for the future of Chatham Central football. He envisions establishing a functioning JV program within five years and gradually building a strong feeder program to ensure sustained success. Little’s emphasis on community involvement and investment in the sport reflects his determination to make a lasting impact on the school and its football program.
Reflecting on Progress
In the short time that Coach Little has been working with his players, he has already witnessed significant strides. “It’s just lining up correctly,” he shared with a smile. He explained that his primary focus is ensuring that his players grasp the basics of the new systems, an essential foundation for success.
The Players’ Perspectives
Several players, including Aiden, Devonte, River, Omar, and Connor, chimed in with their thoughts. Aiden noted that working together and maintaining effort were crucial lessons learned from Coach Little. Devonte expressed how the coach has brought back their love for the sport and instilled confidence. River highlighted the importance of trusting the team and sticking to plays. Omar, referring to Coach Little’s guidance, stated, “I learned that we gotta work together and when we’re working together we got to put on the full effort and even if we get down by a touchdown, it’s only one, we don’t drop our heads and keep trying to play.” Connor shared that he had learned to give his all, no matter the situation.
A Bright Future Ahead
As Chatham Central’s football team prepares to kick off the season, it’s clear that Coach Derrin Little’s energy, determination, and commitment to changing the team’s culture are already making an impact. With the senior leadership, renewed team spirit, and Coach Little’s guiding hand, the Bears are primed to face their challenges and write a new chapter in their football legacy.
- All players at the media event except Aiden Johnson are seniors.
- The coach is excited about coaching a senior group.
- Evaluating self and team dynamics is important for the coach in this new season.
- Building a strong sense of community and executing plays are vital.
- The coach’s mother is a coach herself and provides valuable insights.
- The mother emphasizes community-first coaching.
- The team is showing improvements in spirit and confidence.
- Unity and enthusiasm are evident in practices.
- Players have embraced a new offense and defense.
- The coach highlighted individual players’ strengths.
- The team seems to have regained their love for football.
- Chatham County schools are now part of the same 1A/2A conference.
- The team’s first game is against Jordan-Matthews on September 8th.
- The coach aims to change the team’s culture and rekindle excitement.
- Players’ alignment and assignment execution are essential.
- Chatham County lacks a middle school football program.
- The coach focuses on finding solutions to challenges.
- The coach’s five-year plan involves developing a JV program and fostering community support.
- The coach has instilled teamwork and effort in players.
- The quarterback is learning to trust the offensive line.
- Players feel pride and family tradition when wearing the jersey.
- Family connections and past players motivate current players.
Watch Chatham Central coach and players at media event on YouTube.
00:14 New coach excited to work with senior group and wishes he had more time with them
- The coach feels it’s a great opportunity to work with the senior group
- He wishes he could have more years with the seniors
- He sees this season as a chance to evaluate himself and his ability to manage the team
- The coach is focused on getting the players to mesh together and execute well
- His mother went to Chatham Central and she was happier than him when he got the job
- He values his mother’s knowledge and experience as a high school coach
01:45 The coach’s mother has provided valuable advice about keeping the community first.
- The coach’s mother has given a variety of advice.
- The players have shown significant improvement and enthusiasm.
03:07 Key players for the team are the offensive line leader, Devonte with great speed, Rivers as the quarterback, Omar as the hard-hitting player, and Aiden who has potential.
- The offensive line leader is very talented and needs to stay healthy for a successful season.
- Devonte is known for his speed and was productive offensively last year.
- River has experience as a quarterback and is adapting well to the new situation.
- Omar is a hard-hitting player who is excited about his new position.
- Aiden, a junior, has the potential to excel with his height and ability to find the football.
04:16 Connor is a versatile and physical player who will be key in the defense
- He will be playing as a middle linebacker and running the defense.
- He is heavily involved in both the run game and the passing game.
- He has grown and started to enjoy his role.
- The team is preparing for their first game against Jordan-Matthews.
05:24 Changing the culture and bringing back the excitement
- The team felt out of the game and lacked love for football last year, but now they have a new-found excitement
- The community needs to be brought on board to support the cultural change
- The team’s ability to line up correctly in a completely new offense and defense is impressive
06:32 Chatham County Schools do not have a middle school football program.
- I believe struggling with football is expected, but understanding assignments is important.
- I appreciate coach Ryan Johnson for building his own feeder program.
- The toughest question in the interview was about my Five-Year Plan.
07:51 Building up the numbers and bringing back football to the community.
- We learned the importance of working together and giving full effort even when down.
- The coach emphasized trusting the line and staying in the pocket as a quarterback.
- Wearing the jersey represents being a representative of Chatham Central.
09:39 Wearing the jersey means a lot as it represents a family tradition.
- Jersey has been passed down through generations in the family.
- Playing football and wearing the jersey is a way to honor family members who have played or coached in the past.