By Shaun Szkolnik, sports editor
CENTER POINT — George Bates is a man of many talents. He has a degree in special education from the University of West Alabama, where he played football as an All-American defensive back, he has a master’s degree in education, and he is the athletic director and the head football coach for Center Point High School.
Members of the Center Point Area Chamber of Commerce were fortunate enough to hear Bates speak to their body Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019.
“This is the first time I’ve been privileged to be in a program that has its own city,” said Bates. “When you have your own city is just special because you are able to get out into the community and people have an investment in the program because it is the community’s team. One thing we always try to do and always continue to do is be out in the community.”
Although a coach of considerable skill education is a primary concern for Bates, it informs everything he does with the athletic programs at Center Point High School.
“I’m big on education, and that isn’t just lip service,” said Bates. “The administration has allowed us to contract out one of the best young ladies in the country to assist us in ACT prep.”
Bates also expects a serious amount of academic responsibility from his football players.
“We do academic progress reports every week,” said Bates. “If you don’t have the grades that week more than likely you’ll sit out practice if you sit out practice, you’re going to sit out a game. So, if you’re sitting out practice, you’re going to be doing tutoring with teachers and things of that nature in study hall.”
In his speech, Bates brought to mind the renaissance idea of the universal man. A man, or woman, that excells in both the physical and the mental.
“We believe in working the mental and the physical out,” said Bates. “We want to build up the total body, the wholistic approach.”
Bates inherited a football program that could be described as lackluster. Expectations for the young coach were not high because expectations for Center Point football were not high. Bates confounded those expectations his first year with the program. Center Point football has become a program that is respected.
“Last year (was my first year at Center Point High School),” said Bates. “Coming into the season, they had only won three games in the previous four years. It was one of those jobs where everyone tells you, ‘it is rebuilding, you don’t have the kids, football is not serious over there anymore,’ but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe in the naysayers or things of that nature. We are all about doing what we do, and it is going to pay off.”
That attitude certainly has paid off for Center Point.
“Last year we finished six and six,” said Bates. “The first winning record in three years. We made it to the playoffs for the first time in five years. We won a playoff game for the first time since 2011. We are very, very excited about that.”
“Making the playoffs is no longer a standard at Center Point High School,” said Bates. “It’s just not. It is something we should do regardless. Our goal right now, one of our mantras is we want to make history … our goal this year is to make history. Of course, we want to win the state championship. To get to the state championship you’ve got to get to the semi-finals to get the opportunity to win the state championship. So, right now our goals, I tell the kids, is to make history. That (making history) is going to be for all Erwin, for all Center Point, all Eagles. That is going to be our goal for this year.”