“I accepted the head football position in March of 2013. I spent 17 seasons as a head baseball coach and assistant football coach before becoming the head football coach only,” Bishop said. “I had a goal of doing two sports for 23 years — as did one of my mentors Coach Brent Perry of Cass High School — but fell short a few years due to accepting the present position of head football coach. Although I spent so many years as a head baseball coach, it has always been a goal of mine to be a head football coach and felt that the timing was right for me to make the transition to the new role.”
A 1988 graduate of Cairo High School, the 44-year-old father of two played both football and baseball during his four-year career. After graduating from Valdosta State, Bishop accepted a job at South Central Middle School, moving to Woodland High School to coach baseball several years later. After eight years at WHS, he transferred to AHS where he became the head baseball coach and assistant football coach.
Bishop’s decision to move to coaching was born out of his own athletic goals.
“As far as my athletic goals, my ultimate goal was never to play professionally, my ultimate goal was to make the 1992 Summer Olympic team because that was the first year baseball would have been a medal sport. Needless to say, I learned early in my career that was not going to happen,” he said. “So, at that point, I was ready to ‘move to the other side of the desk’ so to speak, move on to teaching and coaching.”
The influence of his own coaches and teachers played a key role in Bishop’s decision to enter education.
“Like most folks in the profession — and even in others — I had teachers and coaches that were very influential in my life, none really more than any others, but many of them, in many different ways and areas along the way in my life. Consequently, I feel a strong responsibility to give that to the young people I teach and coach,” he said. “I feel great pride when I see young people grow and mature and reach their potential as young adults.
“... It’s unique in that you really don’t know what you have accomplished with a student-athlete sometimes for many years. If you are a carpenter, plumber or electrician, at the end of the day you turn around on the job and look back and see what you have accomplished that day. [It’s] not that way in teaching and coaching; you may not know for some time what effect, if any, you have had on young people. When you get down to it, one might say, ‘Well, y’all won Friday. Great job, coach,’ but the real deal is what life lessons are these kids learning from being a part of this team, school and community?”
Name: Eric Bishop
City of Residence: Cartersville
Occupation: Health and PE teacher and head football coach at Adairsville High School
Family: Wife, Gina; son, Blaine, 17, a senior at AHS; daughter, Brooke, 15, a freshman at AHS
Education: Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education, Valdosta State University; Master of Science in Educational Leadership, Jacksonville State University, Ala.
How did you get into this profession?
A: I knew what I wanted to do when I was in the ninth grade. My mother and father were both very successful in the business world. My father ran a family-owned plumbing and electrical business in Cairo and my brothers and I were raised working for him and my granddad. My mother was general manager of a very large convenient store food chain. I grew up watching them run the rat race of running both small and large businesses and knew that neither of the situations was appealing to me.
My mother used to tell me all the time that I was very lucky that I knew what I wanted to do early in life, that most people were not so lucky. I used to tell them that I don’t want to buy anything, or sell anything, or make anything that is bought or sold. I knew my calling was in high school education and athletics. I really don’t have any interest in college or professional coaching for that reason. I have had several student-athletes ask me in the past would I or have I ever wanted to move into college to coach, and I just tell them, “Not at all. I am right [where] I am supposed to be.”
Heading into your second year as AHS football coach, what are your expectations? How much more “settled” do you feel as a sophomore coach?
A: Well I definitely feel more settled than this time last year. I accepted the head football position in March while I was still the head baseball coach and we were in the middle of a playoff race. It was the busiest time of my life. Like I said we were preparing for the baseball playoffs and spring football at the same time. I would teach all day, do baseball in the afternoon and night, and then stay up planning and preparing for spring and summer football workouts, etc. If it were not for the support of the assistant coaches in both sports, our faculty and staff, as well as the players and parents support, I am not sure I would have made it through it all.
As far as expectations, they are the same regardless of the year or the season. You just might change slightly where your focus, effort and time are placed. This time last year we were returning a lot of [offensive line and defensive line] players and had to focus on the skill positions. This year it is the mirror image — we lost a lot of linemen kids to graduation but return what we think is the strength of this year’s team in the skill positions. So a lot of our offseason focus has been on the linemen on both sides of the ball.
In high school athletics you can’t go out and recruit for your team’s needs like you can in college, you really have to adapt what you to do the players you have. Besides you are dealing with 14- to 18-year-old student-athletes. How many businessmen and women out there would want to run their business exclusively with 15- to 18-year-olds? It can be [a] daunting task at times, but very rewarding at times as well.
How has the transition been from baseball to football? Do you miss the diamond?
A: Well the only transition has really been in the administration part of it really because I have always been in football in some capacity.
The change has been a good one though. There are some things that will never change regardless of the sport, but there is enough new and different that it has refreshed me professionally, and I have never been more excited or enthusiastic about getting up and going to work than I am right now.
As far as missing baseball, I have been asked that question a lot and I just respond, “I have been so busy that I have not had much time to really sit down and ‘miss’ it yet.” My son still plays baseball for Coach [Billy] Roper, our baseball coach now, and so I get to go out and watch him and the rest of the boys play, so it’s not like I am totally removed from the program.
With everything facing teenagers in society today, what do you try to do to combat that as a coach?
A: I tell you, it seems to get harder and harder every year. We talk about accountability more than anything else in our football program. We talk about being accountable for your actions and accountable to this team and your teammates whether we are talking about being on time for practice, meetings or your actions in the classroom, or in the community.
Young people today are faced with more than any other generation in history. It is just our job to lead, guide and direct them in the right direction, so that they reach their potential both academically and athletically. This is one area I feel we excel in at Adairsville, not just in the football program but schoolwide. We truly subscribe to the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Our faculty and staff as well as our coaches work closely and consistently to be sure we get the most out of every child, regardless of the sport or activity. It is truly a special thing that may go unnoticed at times, but it’s going on whether anyone notices it or not.
If you could coach, walk the sidelines, with one of the coaching legends, who would you pick and why?
A: Wow! That is a tough one. There are so many. I would probably say Bobby Bowden. I have [a] framed autograph picture of him above my desk in my office that my dad got for me. The reason it is there and the reason I would choose him is more for what he did for players off the field rather than what he accomplished on the field. I have read all his books and they are on the bookshelf in my office. I have that framed autograph placed above my desk to be a constant reminder each time I walk in the office of the “big picture” — it is about kids. While winning and losing is important, in the end it is really all about teaching kids.
What makes Bartow County special?
A: Well I will be honest: when I moved here in the summer of 1993, I had never even heard of Cartersville, Adairsville or Bartow County. Growing up in south Georgia I might have been a little sheltered, I admit, but I was only going to be here for one year and I was supposed to go back to Valdosta and take a teaching and coaching job at Newbourne Middle School opening the following year. Well, as the old saying goes, the rest is history.
This is a great area of the state. I lived here for 15 or 16 years with my nearest relative 278 miles away, and now all of them live here. I think that says a lot right there. This is a great place to call home, and I always tell people, I am from Cairo but this is home.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am truly a beach bum at heart. I love the beach, any beach really. My whole family loves the beach. We count down the days anytime we get to go to the beach.
What would you be doing [if] you weren’t coaching football? What is your dream job?
A: Well, as I said earlier, I have my dream job. If I were doing anything else, I would be wishing that I was teaching and coaching. As football coaches, we always talk about it all the time. We have a whole bunch of useless knowledge. If we were to enter the business world, no one there would care about how to block power versus an odd stack defense, or what passes you are going to throw versus cover 2.
What is your favorite meal?
A: Seafood platter, no doubt. Goes back to the beach bum thing. I like it cooked anyway you want to — fried, grilled, it doesn’t matter.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
A: Flagler Beach, Florida. We go there every year and have for about 10 years now. It’s what I call old Florida, not commercialized at all really; we love it there. We spent the GHSA dead week there and can’t wait to get back there, although it won’t be anytime soon with school and football right around the corner.