Barry Shuford hopes to bring physicality back to East Mecklenburg football
Friday, Jul. 18, 2014

Barry Shuford hopes to bring physicality back to East Mecklenburg football

Barry Shuford is the new head football coach at East Mecklenburg after spending seven seasons at Olympic High.
  • Barry Shuford

    Head football coach at East Mecklenburg.

    • Age: 52.

    •  Head coaching experience: 24 years. Bessemer City (1989-91), Garinger (1992-95), Butler (1997-2002), Parkwood (2003-2006) and Olympic (2007-2013). He was an assistant at Independence in 1996.

    •  Career record: 142-137.

Barry Shuford started the Butler football program in 1997, led Union County’s Parkwood High to its first playoff win in 33 years in 2005 and, most recently, became Olympic High’s winningest coach.

Now Shuford, 52, will try to turn around an East Mecklenburg football program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009.

“He was by far our best candidate, so we hired him,” said East Meck Athletic Director Ec Little. “His experience, his background in turning teams around was a real big thing for us. He has credibility in the area.”

Shuford was announced as the head coach at East Meck in March, after resigning from Olympic in December after seven seasons there.

During his run at Olympic, Shuford was 53-32, with a losing record only in his first season, and he took the Trojans to the third round of the state playoffs in 2012.

When he resigned, he said in a letter to Olympic’s administration that he wanted to have more time to see his kids in college. His son, Chase, plays baseball at Guilford College, and his daughter, Chandler, is a cheerleader at East Carolina.

Shuford, entering his 25th year as a head coach, said he was the only football coach on campus at Olympic.

“I need some help on campus,” he said. “So I resigned for that fact and was probably not going to coach, and the East Meck job came open.”

Several of his assistant coaches are on the staff at East Meck, and he lives about five miles from the school, he said.

“It just felt like it was the right deal,” Shuford said. “Getting closer to home helped.”

Shuford said he “tried to hit the ground running” in spring, doing afterschool workouts at the high school and at feeder middle schools. He said he hopes to change the football culture.

“Try to make the kids understand it’s important to come to summer workouts, that’s been the biggest challenge so far, because I don’t think that’s been a real priority in the past, so we’ve struggled a bit there,” Shuford said.

Shuford, a guidance counselor at East Meck, wants to make sure players stay academically eligible, especially those who come to the school as part of the International Baccalaureate program.

He also hopes to return the program to the physical style he remembers playing against while coaching at Butler and Olympic.

“They would physically pound you. That was the thing,” Shuford said. “We played them at Olympic in ’09 in the second round of the playoffs and they just physically whipped us. ...

“They’ve always played that tough brand of football with those upfront people, and we’re going to try to get back to doing a lot of that.”

Shuford will be the Eagles’ third coach in five seasons. Jeremy Buck led the team to a 2-20 record from 2010-11, and Chris Williams was 3-19 at East Meck the past two seasons.

Shuford is encouraged by some of the young players in the program, especially the freshman class, which he calls “probably the best group of freshmen I’ve ever had … maybe not numbers-wise, but talent-wise.”

But he’s not setting a win goal for the coming season. He wants the team to be competitive and work harder in the offseason and in the weight room.

Turning around the program may take time, but Little said he thinks Shuford could bring the attitude and consistency to do it.

“I think getting someone that stays there and who the kids want to be there will go a long way in rebuilding the program,” Little said. “If we can change the attitude, we can change the program.”

Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe

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