He’s a head softball and basketball coach, a football offensive coordinator and physical education teacher. There’s rarely a dull moment in the life of Brian Watson.
High school coaches are commonly recognized as some of the most passionate and selfless professionals around, but Watson takes it to an even higher level.
Coaching three sports during a school year, along with summer travel softball and football workouts can be taxing, but Watson gets it done with plenty of success to go along with it.
And it all begins with his love for the community.
“Brian loves the kids and he wants to be there for them,” Jay athletic director Lance Youngblood said. “He’s always looking to make kids better in sports and in life. That’s the whole idea of coaching. At a small school, we encourage kids to play multiple sports and also have the coaches that do the same, at a high level.
“You won’t find a harder worker than Brian. I don’t think he has one selfish bone in his body.”
At the start of a calendar year, Watson is in the heart of basketball season, a sport in which he helped the Royals conduct a banner year in the 2018-19 season and have now reached the playoffs in back to back seasons.
By early February, his basketball duties begin to overlap with softball tryouts, practices and preseason games.
Toward the end of school year, spring football will emerge and coincide with softball.
After spring, it’s time for summer travel softball and football workouts. Once the school year rolls around, it’s a heavy dose of football, which overlaps with the start of basketball to close out the calendar year.
It's nearly a non-stop, year-round calendar for Watson.
But this devoted, fast-paced lifestyle is the norm for Watson and is something for which he is grateful.
Watson has been the softball head coach and a football assistant for 15 years and the basketball head coach for two.
During that span, his teams have won nine district titles, and softball has finished as state runner-up three times. Basketball has made the playoffs both years and reached the regional finals in 2019.
Football has earned a playoff berth in consecutive seasons.
“We have good players at Jay and we are successful,” Watson said. “I’m not coaching just to be out here. If I didn’t feel like we were successful, I wouldn’t be spending the hours I do. I’m proud of the kids I coach and the hard work they put in.”
It’s fair to call Watson a Jay lifer, having graduated as a Royal in 1992. He was a varsity letterman at Jay in football, basketball and baseball. He reached the final four in football as a junior and was part of three district-champion baseball teams.
Watson went on to play baseball at Pensacola Junior College and was a team captain in 1994. Then, he finished up at Florida State. He spent seven years coaching at Jonesboro High in Georgia before making his return to Jay.
“To say that I am a Jay Royal is an understatement,” Watson said. “ I want to see Jay succeed. If I feel like I can help somebody out, I’m always going to help.”
One community, one heartbeat
With a population of 543 recorded in the 2011 U.S. Census, Jay is most certainly a small town with plenty of benefits therein.
Jay School has 296 students from grades nine through 12, which also offers benefits for the students and coaches like Watson.
As Watson puts it, small-school coaches are highly aware of the talent coming in to play at a high school level each year.
And no one gets more of a look than Watson, who is also the Jay elementary physical education teacher.
Now in his 15th year, he’s seen two graduating classes make the journey from kindergarten through high school.
The Class of 2020 will be the third group he’s seen all the way through.
“It is bittersweet to watch them graduate” Watson said. “I’m very proud of our teams and our players. It’s hard to describe how proud it makes me watch them grow up and become young adults and community leaders.”
Living in the present
With so much his plate, it seems Watson could easily become overwhelmed.
But he strives to keep things simple and let his passion fuel the journey.
“It’s tiring, especially when you start overlapping, and we’ve made the playoffs in each sport in the last two years,” Watson said. “But sometimes, you’ve just got to roll with it. All of this could only be possible with good assistant coaches. I have people helping me that I can trust with anything.”
Not only has Watson sharpened his players skills and crafted highly competitive teams, he’s left strong impressions on his players with his positive attitude and competitive nature.
Jay junior Carsyn Seib has played basketball each year and softball as a freshman and junior. She’s won three district titles during that span, all with Watson as her coach.
“We’ve all grown up having him as a PE coach and now he’s our high school coach,” Seib said, who was a 2020 PNJ All-Area pick. “He’s so easy to be around, understating and patient. He cares about how we feel. He gives us the help we need and dedicates so much time to us and the game.
“He does it because of his passion for winning and sports. But first, I think he’s there for the kids. He just wants to make sure we are successful, have a good time and win.”
Away from Jay
Watson spends the majority of his time at a Jay school, sports field or court or traveling for an athletic event.
Outside of those boundaries, Watson still strives to be around sports as much as possible. While he admits it’s been a tough run as of late, he always makes sure to support Florida State football.
He’s also found immense joy in coaching his children — Bray Watson (junior, football) and Brett Watson (freshman, softball) — at Jay, a task that has helped re-energize Watson.
“People have asked me which sport is my favorite to coach, and the truth is they all have their strengths and weaknesses,” Watson said. “It’s pretty much whatever season I’m in is my favorite sport at the time. I just want to get on the field or court and compete.”
Brian Achatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.