Jerry Byrd doesn”t know if he, his wife, or his children are happier.
Getting an opportunity to stay home to teach and to coach usually can put a smile on anybody”s face.
The Byrds will smile a lot more this year after the Lowndes County School Board approved Friday the hiring of Byrd as the new boys soccer and tennis coach at New Hope High School.
In addition to approving Byrd”s position, the school board also approved the hiring of Bobby Taylor as assistant baseball coach at New Hope High.
The decision to accept the coaching and teaching positions at New Hope High was easy for Byrd, the older brother of former New Hope High boys basketball coach Robert Byrd.
“I am tickled to death to be the new boys soccer and tennis coach at New Hope,” Byrd said. “I want to thank Mr. Mike Halford (the Lowndes County School District Superintendent), the school board, Mr. Lynn Wright (the New Hope High principal), and Mr. Matt Smith (New Hope High assistant principal).
“This opportunity affords me a chance to come home and not to make the commute every day.”
Byrd replaces Jamie Perkins, who left New Hope High earlier this month to take a teaching and coaching jobs at Oxford High.
Perkins also coached girls track and field at New Hope High. Justin Putnam accepted that job earlier this week, but approval for that hire wasn”t on the school board”s agenda this week.
Byrd coached the Kemper County High boys basketball team to the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament and a 27-11 final record.
Prior to that, Byrd coached boys basketball and boys and girls tennis at Neshoba Central (2007-08) and football at Kemper County (2006-07).
As much as he loved working at Kemper County, his alma mater, he couldn”t pass up an opportunity to avoid driving 142 miles round-trip from his home in New Hope to Kemper County every day during the school year.
His decision to work at New Hope High will give him an opportunity to be closer to his daughter, Mary Kathryn who will be a junior, and his son, Jeremy, who will be a senior this year at the school.
Byrd, 45, will teach transitional Algebra at New Hope High. He spent 15 years as a volunteer basketball coach at New Hope High. He said he finally listened to the urgings of his brother, Robert, and his family and earned his teaching certification.
Now he will get an opportunity to put it to use at a school that is special to him, even if he had to say goodbye to people who were equally important at Kemper County.
“It was a tough decision because the people at Kemper County were great, the kids were great, and they played hard for me and are very talented,” Byrd said.
Byrd anticipates working with kids who are just as talented in soccer and in tennis at New Hope High. While he admits he understands soccer and knows how it is played, he said he will have some work to do to pick up the finer points of the game.
“It will be challenging because of my lack of experience, but I am looking forward to it,” Byrd said. “I like to be challenged, and I am anxious to get started with them. I know soccer is a big deal with the kids that play it, and I am going to do everything I can to make it a big deal for them.”
Byrd said he already has spoken to coaches who have built successful soccer programs and plans to visit with them to pick up some helpful hints. He believes his transition into both sports will be easy because he has coached many of the athletes when they played basketball in junior high.
“I am excited to get to coach them again,” Byrd said. “It will be a different sport, but I am looking forward to getting involved with those relationships again.”
Byrd”s wife, Michelle, teaches in the gifted program at New Hope Elementary School.
Taylor, 52, who played baseball for Tommy Smith at Caledonia High and for Ron Polk at Mississippi State, is retiring from his job in operations at Omnova Solutions. He recently had his teaching license recertified and will teach science at New Hope Middle School.
Taylor”s son, Chase, is a golfer at New Hope High. He coached his son and others in the youth baseball park leagues and felt he wanted to get back into teaching and coaching.
He also assisted Drew McBrayer, the new New Hope High boys basketball coach, with the school”s boys golf team.
“I feel I have a knack with the kids,” said Taylor, who is eager to join new coach Lee Boyd”s coaching staff. “I have been doing plant work for 25 years and I felt I wanted to do something for the community and for myself. I am tickled to death I am going to work at New Hope High. I played baseball with Lee”s dad, Andy, and, like I said, I am looking forward to it. I am going to help Lee anyway I can.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.