By JOSH FRYE
It has been a little over a decade since Willie James White Jr. last stepped onto a football field or basketball court. But he’s no stranger to either.
The veteran coach has now returned to his roots, coming out of retirement to once again offer his knowledge and experience to the Escambia Academy athletic program.
White is this year’s new head basketball coach and is also offering services as an assistant coach with the Cougars football team.
“I am very excited for the opportunity,” White said. “It has been a while since I have been in a head coaching position, but it never leaves you.”
After graduating from Monroe County High School, White started his coaching career in 1978 at Monroeville Junior High School. He served there for five years. White then moved on to Excel High School, where he coached for one year before transferring to J.F. Shields High School, where he spent 13 years as a basketball and football coach. In 1993, White departed J.F. Shields and returned to his alma mater, where he coached and served as an assistant principal at Monroe County High for 10 years before retiring in 2004.
After taking four years off, White returned to the workforce, taking a position with the Alabama Department of Corrections as a Certification Specialist.
According to White, a passion for antique cars actually paved his way to EA.
“I had to bring a car to the body shop down the road from the school one day,” he said. “While there, the gentleman and I were discussing my coaching experience when someone from EA overheard and approached me. After talking and putting in for the job, the rest is history.”
According to White, helping youngsters reach their potential through positive action and thinking is his main drive.
“Helping the youth learn life skills and cope with everyday living situations is a driving force for myself in coaching,” he said. “There is a lot you can teach kids by taking the role as a parent and mentor. We wear many hats as a coach. Our job is to make positive impacts and to help the youth walk a sharp line and have discipline.”
White explained that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has plagued normal everyday life, would be a challenge this year, as some things have changed and there are new things to adapt to.
Despite the situation at hand, White is looking forward to making the change with EA’s athletes and helping lead his team to victory on and off the court and field this year.
“I am excited to be back,” he said. “My daughter is already bragging on me and is already planning to be at my side during games. She pointed out the fact that I am back where I belong. I am excited to continue my work with the players and youth this year. It is great opportunity and I am looking forward to it.”
White will be on the sidelines as part of the EA coaching staff during the upcoming football season and will see his first action as the school’s head basketball coach when the Cougars take to the court later this year.