When new Overhills football coach Mark Kirk overhears other coaches fondly speaking of impending retirement, he has as simple question they have a hard time answering.
“Well, what are you going to do then?”
To Kirk, retirement is never on his mind. The 37-year coaching veteran began this week to lead the Jaguars.
Most recently, Kirk was coaching in Pennslyvania, but he has experience in the area, having been the head coach at up-the-road rival Western Harnett in 2008. Kirk was retired in Pennslyvania but will teach social studies at Overhills.
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“As long as you can build real positive relationships, why stop? It’s fun. The learning environment is fun,” said Kirk, a self-described history buff. “We really liked the area (while at Western Harnett). The people were great, the school and the district was great. We wanted to get back.”
Kirk’s experience as a head coach was what Steve Matthews, the school’s new principal, was looking for. After Rodney Barr stepped down as coach in late April for a job in South Carolina, the Jaguars needed someone to hit the ground running.
“We’re on a little bit different timetable. A lot of folks got to run spring ball with their kids,” Matthews said. “I felt like it was important to get someone who was organized and who had been there before. Mark’s a really organized guy. When you sit down and talk with him, he’s got a plan. That was important, that someone would come in with a plan and be ready to go.”
The Jaguars, members of the Fayetteville-based Mid-South 4A Conference, were 6-6 last year with one win coming via forfeit from Pinecrest. They lost in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
Kirk has coached in Oregon and Indiana as well. At multiple stops, he’s coached a team to one of its best seasons in school history. At Western Harnett, he took over a program that had lost 23 straight games and snuck into the playoffs, going 4-8.
He left Western after one year for Oregon when his wife’s job was transferred to another area.
It has been a busy time for Overhills. Matthews officially started as principal on Wednesday, Kirk started workouts on Thursday and the school is still looking for an athletics director.
Matthews is a former high school assistant football coach under an impressive triumvirate of Southwest Onslow’s Phil Padgett, Midway’s Tommy Sloan and former Garner coach Hal Stewart at Triton. All three coaches – all with more than 195 wins and at least one state title each – had different styles, Matthews said, but all were organized.
“Ideally, you would want to do (athletics director) first, but having been a football coach before, I knew how important it was for summer workouts to begin if we’re going to have a solid foundation going into the fall,” Matthews said. “That was my No. 1 priority to do that and try to get that completed as fast as I could, but also to give that the attention it deserves.”