Retiring Hays coaches look back at growth

Over the course of 30-plus years coaching in Hays CISD, Gary Gaddy and Mitch Phillips have seen their fair share of what public education has to offer.

Amid the highest of highs and otherwise, Gaddy and Phillips have always welcomed the opportunity to guide and develop the next generation of athletes. They’ve done so while being the last standing members of a group of coaches who had worked together for nearly 20 years. 

As they ready to retire this summer, both men are anxious to discover what life will offer once they step out of the classroom and off the field. Letting go of the thrill of coaching, however, isn’t as easy. 

“One thing I’m going to miss is not having that crescendo at the end of the week of playing a good game and all the things you’ve been doing and working on,” Phillps said.

Phillips’ and Gaddy’s retirement marks the end of a memorable era in Hays CISD athletics history. The two were part of a coaching staff pieced together by Bob Shelton, which stayed perfectly intact from the mid-1990s until Shelton’s retirement in 2010.

Both men credit Shelton’s humility and good nature for the success of the staff. But they also credit Shelton with giving them a chance to coach at Hays CISD in the first place.

Gaddy, who has served as a defensive line coach at Hays High, said he didn’t know about Shelton until a friend directed him to an opening on his staff.  Until that point, Gaddy had envisioned himself going to Floresville to work.

Coaching sports, however, was something far from Gaddy’s mind when Shelton first brought him on to teach PE at what was Hays Middle School in 1985. As a longtime volleyball player, Gaddy never really played football while in high school.

A shy personality also contributed to his initial apprehension.

“I was in college and I was athletic. That’s why I was told to go through PE,” Gaddy said. “If you told me then that I was going to be a coach for this long at Hays, it wouldn’t have happened.”

For Phillips, Shelton offered him a chance to further live out his dream. Ever since he was in middle school, Phillips envisioned himself a coach and a teacher. When he was approached by Shelton to set up an interview with the then superintendent, Phillips knew it was his chance.

“He had more confidence in me than I had in myself,” Phillips said. “Shelton is a good man to work for.”

The direction of Armando Chapa, a longtime counselor and principal at Kyle Middle School, played a key role in getting Gaddy and Phillips ready for the high school coaching ranks.

Both men also had the chance to develop the program and saw just how much buy-in their students had, even when the coaching staff made them work hard.

“Armando Chapa is a good man. He pointed us in the right direction to be in high school,” Gaddy said. “We never thought of ourselves as high school coaches.”

Over the years, Gaddy and Phillips enjoyed the thrill of competition they saw on the field. They also equally enjoyed working with and developing young athletes.

It led to an inseparable friendship between the two, which extends on and off the football field.

While interaction is limited on the field, Phillips said their friendship over the years has led them to understand what each other is going to do. Phillips said they can count on each other to take care of their business, no matter what sport they are preparing for.

Both men also aren’t afraid to impart constructive criticism to each other, which is a building block of the coaching field.

“I can always count on him to call me out on things when they aren’t alright,” Phillips said. “I’m okay with that now.”

Off the gridiron, their inseparable friendship has included their families.

The friendship began with family camping outings. The two now share the experience of backpacking through the mountains every other year.

That friendship has gone far beyond just camping and excursions. Phillips said there was a time when Gaddy assisted him at his mother-in-law’s farm.

“We’re best friends. Our families have done a lot of stuff together,” Phillips said.

Both have also had a front row seat to the rapid growth of the Hays CISD community. When they began, Hays CISD had a few thousand students in the area.

Today, they are in charge of an athletics program that draws from the nearly 3,000 students at Hays High.

“We’ve seen the 6A level and we try to be competitive with Lake Travis and Westlake, but we push for that,” Gaddy said. “We’re really close.”

No matter the generation or what’s going on in pop culture, Phillips and Gaddy believe kids are kids, no matter what.

The ability to have guided the children of athletes they once coached years ago is a moment they cherish.

“Those parents trust you. If you had them and they know you, and their kid is with you, there’s a trust there,” Gaddy said.

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