More than Friday Night Lights

It’s Friday night in Texas. Head coaches move up and down sidelines holding the hopes and pride of entire communities in their hands. Some head coaches live in mediocrity. Some excel for awhile and burn out. Some seem to get brighter over time – excelling year after year. One such head coach who has experienced long-term success is Hal Wasson. For the last 26 years, Hal Wasson has won 209 football games – an incredible number when you consider the competitive landscape in the state of Texas.

So what makes Hal tick? Well, it started in a cotton field in the small town of Kerens, Texas. Hal’s father Homer was a cotton farmer. Hal grew up knowing what it meant to work hard. Hal told the story of one particular summer in his father’s cotton fields when the cotton did not flourish as expected because of a lack of rain. While working out in the heat, reaping fruitless results, he questioned his father’s motives for working the fields filled with doomed cotton. His father remarked, “As long as I am working, I am not thinking about what I do not have.” His father used this experience to teach Hal about the need to work the fields even when the cotton isn’t good so that it gives the next year’s crop the chance to flourish. “If you don’t work the fields in the bad years, you won’t give the field a chance to have the good years.”

This was just one of many life lessons Hal learned from his father. One might say the drive to pass down life lessons to the next generation was not lost on Hal either. Hal’s son Chase said, “The best gift my dad gives are life lessons, not always a perfect record.” Hal’s dad Homer is 86 years old now, but he still makes it out to every Dragon football game to watch his son live out his dream as a coach.

In a roundabout way, Homer had a lot to do with Hal being at Carroll. Homer tells a story of a young 17-year-old Hal being given the responsibility to drive an important and expensive piece of farming equipment. Homer tried to give Hal some instruction about some caution when operating it, but Hal, in typical teen fashion, said he could handle it himself. Sure enough Hal made a mistake and ripped a boom off a big tractor sprayer. Homer didn’t yell at Hal. In fact, he asked him if he wanted to take a break and go get a Coke. As Homer recalled the story, he chuckled, “Hal’s eyes were as big as saucers. He knew what he had done and he never did it again.” Hal always asked his dad’s advice after that. When asked about the kinds of things Hal would ask his dad, Homer replied, “He asked me about changing his major in college from the path to be a pharmacist to being a coach. He asked my advice when he bought his first new car. He asked my advice on being a husband and father when all of that was new to him. He even asked my advice on giving up his head coaching job to be an assistant at Southlake. It was the best coaching move he ever made.”

Some people may not be aware of the choices that actually brought the Wasson family to Southlake. Hal is blessed with an amazing family, including his wife Sallie, son Chase, and daughter Chelsie. After being a successful head coach at many schools around Texas, Hal made an important decision that changed his family’s life forever. His son Chase recalls the time leading up to the move.

“Dad put his career on hold for me. Dad had moved his way up through the ranks at various schools and had great success. I asked my dad if we could do something for me. Dad showed great selflessness when he took an assistant coaching job at Carroll so that I had the opportunity to excel at football and in the classroom.” Chase ended up having a tremendous senior season at Carroll as he quarterbacked the team to a state championship, while garnering State Player of the Year honors.

When asked about his parenting style, Hal said, “The best advice I could give is for parents to not try and be their child’s friend. Be their parent.” For Hal, that doesn’t mean just barking orders. “Kids will teach you more than you teach them, if you take the time to listen.” That sentiment and respect was echoed by Chase, “Dad has always been a listener first. But if he speaks, you listen.”

Life has not always been about Friday night lights and championships for Hal and his family. Hal recalled the toughest point in his life. “My daughter Chelsie is actually a twin. Her sister, Chasidie was born with a medical condition and only lived for four days. You raise your kids, you go to church, and you try to be the good dad, but all the sudden you realize there are just things you can’t control.” Hal describes the death of a child as a subduing experience when he realized his life before that point had been self-centered. He acknowledged that until that moment when he was helpless and holding his dying infant in his hands, he had been living selfishly and vowed to not continue that way. Despite the pain inflicted by this loss, he knew God’s plan was in motion and trusted in Him. “Without faith I would not be here today.”

Hal often says, “Adversity doesn’t build character. Adversity reveals character.” These life lessons put together a man who could withstand adversity and develop a family that would stay together. The Wasson home team is strong, and that strength has afforded Hal a foundation to succeed over a long period of time. Chase recalled what has helped his dad succeed all these years, “Dad is such a great mentor and coach because he cares about the guys on the team as people first. With Dad it was never about just winning. It was about winning the right way with the right mentality.”

Hal has done a lot of winning through the years, but it’s the legacy off the field that seems to matter most. Hal admits his reasons for success here are faith and family. “God gives me my strength. God has gotten me through a lot of trials and tribulations. Any success I’ve had on the football field also has to be attributed to the guys in the office I get to coach with and the young men I have the pleasure to coach.”
Like many others, Hal Wasson has experienced turmoil but his work ethic and good-natured personality make him stand apart from a crowd. “Faith, family and football have always been my priorities,” Coach Wasson himself would say, “The rest is history.”

By: Lauren Shirrell and Travis Jenkins