Last week, Sealy Athletic Director Shane Mobley found himself driving a bus full of band students back from competing in their regional meet competition in Brenham. It came a couple days after he drove out to watch the boys’ and girls’ high school golf teams compete in their district meets in Sugar Land and Navasota.
“I do it because that stuff matters and I trust my coaches to handle things at the school while I’m gone,” Mobley said. “We have to care for another and help out in any way possible and that includes stuff like this.”
It is those qualities of trust, care and community that are the pillars of the new culture Mobley and his staff have brought to Sealy through athletics. Over the past year, athletes ranging from football players Justin Eckhardt and Garret Zaskoda to basketball star Jayme Kana have not preached their play on the court or field but instead the connection they have with their teammates.
“Once our season is over, that’s it for me and basketball,” Kana said as the end of the basketball season drew near several months ago. “I want to keep this going for me and my teammates.”
After a playoff loss against Lufkin, when asked what they’ll miss the most, senior receiver Eckhardt and his quarterback, junior Zaskoda, said it wasn’t the sure-fire touchdown combo the duo made for that season but the experiences they had off the field.
“Those Friday talks where we would just go to someone’s house and hang out and play around and talk about what was going on in our lives,” Zaskoda said. “It was that connection you had with the guys around you that made this season special.”
For Mobley, the students buying into what he wanted to bring to Sealy was the key piece to puzzle.
“The change they had to go through with us coming in this time last year and trusting us is huge in setting that foundation for success because we had to lead by example,” Mobley said. “As coaches, we have to be there for each other. We watch each other’s kids and our wives spend time together and we bring our family to the school to spend time with the students because we want this community to be a family.”
A large number of the staff Mobley brought in with him has a history with him whether it be family connections like Clark Harrell’s father coaching Mobley in the past or Cody Carruthers being a freshman when Mobley was a senior at the same high school.
It is through these bonds that Mobley finds the value in sports: not winning or losing on the field but the relationships and lessons that can be taken away from them. These are the same things that he wants the students of Sealy from high school to middle school to take away from their athletic experiences.
“What makes it important for us to carry that responsibility that we build the right type of young men and women the right way to be a good person and raise a family,” Mobley said. “As coaches, we have to live it and show that we’re not scared to say ‘I love you’ and at the same time push them to be better.”
He pointed to seniors at the high school level and eighth-graders at the middle school as leaders who need to learn to not take their senior status for granted but instead as an opportunity to help others grow.
The thing that sticks out about the culture that surrounds Sealy athletics is its intricacy. Mobley couldn’t point to a single word or phrase to summarize it because it has so many levels. At some point, the students embody what the community should be and give them something to rally around throughout the year. On another, the community can help the kids grow through their support and care for them. It is this mutually beneficial relationship Mobley said he wants to foster the most.
“There’s a lot of emphasis in today’s world about winning or losing but if we can make sure these kids grow up with the proper respect and they have these skills that will help them later in life then that’s what you want,” Mobley said. “I want to make sure the community rallies around these kids and help them grow as people.”
The family culture has helped students through losing their parents, personal struggles and given them a family-like environment to grow in. Despite this, Mobley said he knows there is still ways to go.
“Are we where we want to be? Not even close,” he said. “Which is why I want us to keep pushing this idea of being a community and being a family because we’re there for one another. We’re there for each other as a coaching staff and for the kids and the community.”
Mobley’s confidence in his staff, his students and the Sealy community makes him sure that the family, community and life lessons emphasized throughout this culture change will continue for the coming years.