There may not be a basketball coach in all of Ohio who has had to go through more in his first month on the job than what Madison-Plains interim boys coach Nathan Warner has had to go through.
From taking over the reins of a program devastated by the unexpected death of head coach Jeff Spradlin, to the season being put on hold for nearly two weeks due to a whooping cough outbreak in the district.
It’s been an unprecedented start to the season, but Warner is taking things in stride and doing his best to keep the players in the program motivated and focused on the task at hand on the court as well as in the classroom.
“Adversity can only make people stronger for the future,” Warner said. “I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff and group of players who are supporting me and willing to do whatever is asked. I’m also reminded through these challenging times that you must work even harder when times are difficult and rely on your family (players and coaches) even more.
“Most importantly though, I have realized how important it is to teach these young men about life and how precious our time is here.”
Warner, 24, a 2007 Madison-Plains High School grad, has slid into the head coaching position and done his best to keep everybody on the same page. Nobody ever has a plan for dealing with dramatic and sudden change like the one the Madison-Plains High School staff and players have had to go through, but the transition has been as smooth as you could hope for
“The transition has been going well,” Warner said. “The young men are working extremely hard and listening to what the coaches have asked them to do and doing the task as best as possible. We are working very hard as a team to pick each other up and push each other to get better every single day.”
Madison-Plains director of athletics Matt Mason, had a feeling that Warner would be the right guy to keep the Golden Eagles afloat through such rocky times.
“I think he’s done a wonderful job,” Mason said. “He had to come in under such difficult circumstances but has really done a great job of keeping the boys focused.
“I’ve known him his whole life. I watched him as a player and as our freshman coach and as a varsity assistant. He’s always energetic and has really bonded with the players. I really don’t think think things could have gone any better than they have.”
Warner admits that a lot of what’s helped him succeed in such trying times can be traced directly back to his relationship with Spradlin.
“Coach Spradlin and I started our relationship when I first began playing in the youth basketball program here at Madison-Plains,” Warner said. “He was also my seventh grade coach, varsity assistant coach and I was a senior on his first-ever team as a head coach here.
“After graduating college Coach Spradlin called and asked if I’d be willing to join his coaching staff. From there our relationship changed from player/coach to him becoming a good friend of mine and taking me under his wing.”
Warner’s bond with his current crop of Madison-Plains High School players was cultivated throughout last summer. He said through conditioning and summer basketball camps he was able to get to know the players on the roster a little better, which is paying off at this time of year.
While things are going well, Warner acknowledges there have been challenges he’s faced in the last month or so.
“The biggest challenge personally was to replace such a good man and the job he loved the most,” Warner said. “It’s a struggle to take over a program the way that I did knowing that coach would still love to be here competing with the boys. He has been a pillar of this program for years and you wish that he could have had the basketball exit he had planned for.”
Warner knows that he’s helping the young men in the basketball program learn and grow from difficult circumstances, but this whole experience has helped him learn more about himself as a coach, leader and family man.
“I’ve learned how important it is to rely on faith and my family off of the basketball court,” he said. “I am very blessed to have a supportive family that would do anything to support me during these times. I’ve also learned that every day I need to continue to learn and ask questions to continue to enrich my understanding of the game. I am blessed with a lot of basketball experience on staff and in the Madison-Plains community that I believe will make me a better coach and person.”
Warner, a junior high math teacher was slated to coach the Madison-Plains seventh grade team this winter before Spradlin’s passing. His basketball position is currently in an interim status and there’s no guarantee he’ll get the position after this season. But he said he’s not going to worry about that and will keep doing what he’s been doing, helping the Golden Eagles succeed on the court this winter.
“I am the interim coach for this year and ideally I would like to stay the coach,” he said. “But the goal for us here at Madison-Plains is to keep 100 percent focused on the 2013-2014 season, and the growth of these guys as individuals and basketball players. We are not focused on the future basketball seasons — we are focused on coming in every day to practice and working hard to make ourselves better players, better teammates and better student athletes.
“The best thing about coaching has been the relationships that has been created with the young men. Being able to relate and spend time with these guys has made this a special time for me and my family.”