Originally created 12/24/06

First-year coach earns top honors



The measure of Joel Ingram as a coach shouldn't be taken over one game. Do that and the 29-year-old will fit the stereotype of a young coach that loses his poker face in games.

"I always want to coach the offensive line as long as I coach," Ingram said, who started four years at center at Jacksonville State. "That's the part of the game I have the most passion about. They're my guys. I was a root hog in the trenches. That's what I'll always connect with the most."

The 2006 Augusta Chronicle All-Area Georgia Coach of the Year does not project the calmness in the eye of a storm that other veteran coaches do.

That's not his style.

"Any coach in the state would love to play again if they had a chance," he said. "That love for it is why they stick close to the game coaching. My fiery streak comes from I'd do anything to play again. When I rant and rave when we don't block a play it's because I wish I could suit up with them and help get the job done."

The best coaches are the ones that teach what they know and don't try to be fake with young people. Ingram doesn't have a fake bone in his body.

"I know what people were saying when I got this job," Ingram said. "He's inexperienced. He's 29. He's never been a head coach. If I was a die-hard Washington County fan I would've been worried. I may have even been a little mad thinking a prestigious program like Washington County needed a more experienced head coach."

Never mind Ingram had coached the team's offensive line since 2000. Or former coach Rick Tomberlin made him the team's offensive coordinator back in 2002.

Those doubts were amplified when the team started 1-2. The Golden Hawks lost to a state champ in Dublin and a top team from a higher classification in Baldwin. But all the critics saw was their team lost two games by a combined score of 72-14.

"The first few games I was as blind as a bat and everything hit me like a bug hitting a windshield," he said.

He never felt any heat, but he just put a community's worth of pressure on himself.

"I will always be my own worst critic," he said. "I wanted to get things going to prove I deserved to be the coach even though everyone thought my first year was going to be a building year."

The Golden Hawks responded with 11 consecutive wins before falling in the Class AAA semifinals to the eventual state champion. Ingram did all this while replacing Tomberlin, one the most successful coach in the state over the previous 14 years.

"It was a smooth transition," senior Shaquan Hicks said.

"There were a lot of worries starting out 1-2. But coach Ingram made us want to get better every day. That's all you can ask for out of your coach."

The Golden Hawks even won three playoff games with their best player sidelined with injury.

"Coach Ingram is not a guy that's going to let you fold up the tent when things aren't going right in times like that," Hicks said.

Ingram gave himself a "C" grade for the year. The high marks were for effort. The low marks were because he wants to do a better job maintaining his composure and make better decisions.

"The greatest leaders in American history were the great generals," he said. "I know about how the great ones never lost their composure because they didn't want their men to."

But then he added one thing.

"They say Coach (Luther) Welsh can still throw a fit on the sidelines when something doesn't go right," he said.

"He's been around it longer than anybody. So the answer for me may be the same answer for Coach Welsh. I think I will always be that fiery coach on the sidelines. That's just who I am. Can't change that."