Double duty: Jacksonville's Chambless handles both boys and girls varsity hoops squads
by Brandon Miller
Dec 03, 2013 | 2316 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ryan Chambless is coaching both the Jacksonville boys and girls varsity squads. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Ryan Chambless is coaching both the Jacksonville boys and girls varsity squads. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
JACKSONVILLE – When the Jacksonville High boys varsity basketball coaching job opened in late February, Ryan Chambless was immediately interested in the position.

When Chambless approached then-Jacksonville High principal Mike Newell about the job, he had just finished his third season as the girls basketball coach.

Here's the catch, however -- Chambless didn't want to give up coaching the girls, so he was willing to pull double duty and handle both squads.

“I made it pretty clear that I didn’t want to give up the girls,” Chambless said. “They’ve been loyal to me, so I wanted to remain loyal to them. That was really my first conversation about it.

“Before I even officially accepted the job, I had a meeting with the girls and told them the boys job had come open and the possibility of doing both. I wanted them to know that nothing was going to change as far as them and how we work or whatever. Honestly, I think that meeting might have meant as much to them as anything else we’ve done.”

It's rare for one coach to handle both varsity squads, especially at a school as large as Jacksonville, which is Class 4A. This year, Chambless is the only one in Calhoun County doing it. Jacksonville Christian's Tommy Miller and Donoho's Shannon Felder coached both, too, until this season. Both are 1A schools.

Anthony Kingston coached the Jacksonville boys team until stepping down after last season, needing more time to focus on his job as director of technology for Jacksonville City Schools. Chambless officially became the boys coach in May, when he was approved by the Jacksonville Board of Education.

Chambless said the process of coaching both teams started with summer workouts, then moved into practice last month. After the summer was a breeze, he used the same practice format he and Kingston used in previous seasons, with the girls practicing near the end of the school day and the boys taking the court afterward.

“I thought we were going to have shorter practices, and he was going to pay more attention to other stuff, but things have been the same,” said Angel Kidd, a senior on the girls varsity.

Along with following similar formats, Chambless also reached out to Jacksonville volleyball and former girls basketball coach David Clark and Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin for advice.

“Coach Austin coaches all of them, so his job is bigger than the one I’ve got,” Chambless said with a laugh. “His advice was to talk to the girls so they knew where they stood with me and all that. And he gave me a lot of advice about managing time wisely, scouting wisely and setting up practice wisely.

“If I didn’t talk to him I may be going crazy right now.”

Chambless has a different coaching style than Kingston, which has caught the eyes of players, including senior Lavontae LaCount, who played for Chambless on Jacksonville’s seventh- and eighth-grade team five years ago. No matter the style, both squads have winning records -- the girls are 4-3, while the boys are 3-1.

LaCount said he looks at his new coach and thinks, “Wow, how do you do it?”

“I think he just feels like it’s his job,” LaCount said. “He wants the job, and he likes doing it and coaching.”

The one small complication Chambless has experienced is not being able to talk to the girls after their game and the boys before their game. This where Chambless said his assistants -- Clint Roper, Derrick Wilson and Nate Lyons -- “come in big.”

“He’s not in the locker room talking to us, so we don’t get a pregame speech,” LaCount said. “But I can say that while the B-team is playing, he’ll talk to us. That’s his time to talk to us.”

Even though the season is still young, Chambless is quickly preparing his two teams for area play. Neither the boys nor girls team advanced out of the Class 4A, Area 11 tournament last year, which was a disappointing end for Chambless and the Lady Golden Eagles, which won the Class 4A state championship in 2012.

The Jacksonville boys and girls face Hokes Bluff at home Tuesday to open area play and play Cherokee County on Dec. 13.

“We’re getting into some tough games now. Our area games are coming up,” Chambless said. “I’m really just trying to improve every day, let that be the focus and not worry about the wins and the losses.”

Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star

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