Martinsburg High School – located in Martinsburg, West Virginia – plays at the highest level in the state at AAA and is ranked the #1 team in the division (according to MaxPreps). The Bulldogs are home to some players who have gone to play in the NFL, including wide reciever Juwan Green and cornerback Fulton Walker, who was the first player to return a kickoff for a touchdown in the superbowl. This week, I had the pleasure to talk with Martinsburg head coach Britt Sherman to talk about the team. I asked him how he got interested in being a coach, to how the team looks after starting 2-0, to who some of his top players are.
Coach Sherman told me what I thought was a unique journey of becoming Martinsburg’s head coach. “Well, I was actually a pre-med major, and when my advisor looked at my transcript from college, all the choice classes were coaching education classes. So she sat me down and asked me what route I want to go… So I was interested in [coaching] before I knew I was interested in it, and my former head coach asked me to come on and also start teaching, because there was a big shortage in Berkeley County (where I had graduated from and where Martinsburg is), where a lot of teachers were leaving. So I was able to start as a teacher and coach around 2004.”
“[This job is] all about the kids. It’s not something you do for ego or glory [or money]. It’s something you do to help kids. More than anything, our youth today needs to be involved in something bigger than themselves, to understand how to work on the team. That’s my major [coaching philosophy] – to help these kids become the best human they can be. Additionally, I would say [the most important value to instill] would be the golden rule, do to others as they would do to you, and to be a great teammate.”
Team-building is as important as ever in today’s game. With that, I asked how Coach Sherman tries to build that for his team. “We do a lot of different things [to create team-building], but I think the best things that we do is we have team dinner together on Thursday nights, the day before the game. We do character development right before that team dinner, and we talk about something different each week. This past week was the cancer awareness game, so we talked about cancer and how it’s affected all of our lives.”
As much as team-building is important to a team, it is just as important to develop leaders and how to spot them in a team. Coach Sherman said, “Being a great student as well as a great athlete” is what he looks for in team leadership. “We have a lot of guys right now that are doing that. Additionally, we also do some community service – we’ve done rescue missions, serving food, stuff like that. So when I ask who wants to go this month, guys that are willing to do that and do selfless acts of service are things that I look for in leaders.”
The team might be 2-0 to start the season, but that doesn’t mean there is no problems Coach Sherman has to work through. “We lost the Gatorade Player of the Year last year in our starting wide reciever, lost another All-State player at tight end, and lost our three interior lineman on offense. We lost some key pieces, but brought back a good core of guys that are extremely talented. Playing the first two games, we’ve played well. Last week, we broke a school record of yards in a game [with 696 total yards]. So we’re extremely talented, but also made some mental mistakes that we need to clean up because we have an extremely hard schedule coming up.”
“We need to work more on discipline. We fumbled the football, gave away a touchdown, blew coverage to give away a touchdown last week. Just those self-discipline type things, and some penalties… bone-headed penalties and stuff like that we really have to clean up. The first thing to do [to overcome this problem] is to make practice harder, make practices more like games. Then go over certain situations; if you don’t coach it, you can’t assume they’re gonna be able to do it. So we defintiely have to start coaching more of their situations.”
Some players who have been performing well so far this season – and who Coach Sherman thinks will continue to do so – include Cam Shallis, Murphy Clement, and Ezra Bagent. Clement and Bagent are both quarterbacks, with Clement being the type to surprise you with his rushing ability and Bagent being the main passer. Shallis is the inside linebacker for the team, with him being described as the “quarterback of the defense.”