GALLATIN - Change is hard, but it can also be necessary.
Shaun Hollinsworth is ready for a change.
The 17-year head coach of the Station Camp High School football team announced to his players Monday morning that he is stepping down, effective immediately.
Hollinsworth finishes his tenure 80-106 overall. His teams won region titles in 2007 and 2013. However, the Bison went 0-10 this season.
“Last Sunday [October 27] Principal Art Crook and I had our conversation that Friday [against Wilson Central] would be my last game as head coach,” Hollinsworth said. “I have been ready for a change for a couple of years, and I’m at a point in life where you start to think about how many years (you have left). I think I have a lot of coaching left. My mind was pretty much made up this summer, but I wanted to see these seniors through. This is a good group, and they have been a good group since they were freshmen. As hard as this decision is, I felt like I needed a change. I feel like Station Camp needs a change. This was decided a long time ago.”
Station Camp Principal Art Crook says that the school is a better one because of Hollinsworth.
“Shaun is one of the hardest working people I have ever been around,” he said. “He has taken all parts of coaching and teaching with character and detail. I’m not sure how many different divisions of football Station Camp has risen and grown through over his time, but each change has brought different challenges. Whether it’s Friday nights, Sunday film study, daily practices, or spring workouts, Coach Holli has represented our program in a first-class manner. There are a lot of memories: Mr. Football banquets, ESPN game, watching game film, surveying tornado damage, visiting injured players in the hospital, walking past his room on a game day and hearing him deliver lines from Julius Caesar or Romeo and Juliet. His dedication to our program was endless. Family has always been very important to him and a lot of young men are better people from playing and learning under Shaun Hollinsworth.
“Our meeting was obviously a very difficult decision for him, but one he had come to terms with,” Crook continued.
Being a leader
Hollinsworth was hired as the first head coach at Station Camp High in the spring of 2002.
He was tasked with starting his own program from scratch.
“Unless people have been here from the very beginning and seen all the obstacles we had to go through from the time of inception, you really can’t appreciate how good the school has it now,” he recalled. “There were a lot of tireless days and nights (put) into getting not only the athletic program started, but the academic programs as well. It has taken a lot of effort from everyone involved.
“The failures and successes over the years have made me a better person. It has taught me how difficult it really is to start a school and program. You really gain an appreciation for the schools that have been around for a long time. It takes so much to start a school, and it is very hard to do. It will be even harder to walk away from.”
Building a program
Only a select few individuals know exactly what goes into starting a new school’s football program.
Hollinsworth says the days were long, and if it wasn’t for the brave kids of his first team, Station Camp may never have realized the good years of winning two region championships.
“The biggest challenge you face is to get kids to buy in,” he said. “You are bringing in kids from different schools that have already enjoyed success. They are thrust into a new situation, and that can be very difficult. Getting them to buy in and understand that they had an opportunity to carve a new path and do something other kids didn’t get to do was a challenge. I will always remember that and helping those kids realize they set the standard that no one else will have. Those first classes came on good faith and became good leaders, and I will always be thankful to them.”
Station Camp and Shaun Hollinsworth have enjoyed a lot of great times during the last 17 years on the East Bank.
Whether it was the back-to-back 10-win seasons or region championships, great memories will have a special place with Hollinsworth.
But he said it won’t be the titles or successful seasons that he will remember in 30 years.
“We have a lot of great memories, but the best things that can happen when you are coaching is when you have kids that come back to see you and thank you for the things you have done for them,” he smiled. “When they go through the program and are ready for whatever life has to throw at them and come back and thank you. That is the biggest memory you take away. Forget the region titles and the winning seasons, those are the great memories that last.”
Falling on hard times
The last several years have been very difficult for Hollinsworth and the Bison program.
Over the last 10 seasons, Station Camp has just one playoff appearance (2nd Round), and amassed a 41-67 record, including a 12-38 mark since 2015.
A lot of those failures can be linked to different reasons, but the biggest reason is the rezoning that took place in 2017 that allowed Rucker Stewart Middle School to send all of their students to Gallatin High School and Knox Doss Middle School to send all of their students to Beech High School.
That was also the same year that star defensive standout Sirtavious Perry transferred to Gallatin and star running back Keamon Dunlap transferred to Beech without repercussion.
In allowing Rucker and Knox Doss to go to Gallatin and Beech, that left Station Camp with just one feeder school, Station Camp Middle School. It should be noted that of the four big schools in the southern part of Sumner County, Station Camp is the only high school with one feeder school.
Once the largest school in the county, Station Camp is down to just 1,328 students, according to data provided by the school. That is down from 1,700 students in 2017.
“Rezoning was a big hit,” Hollinsworth said. “I don’t know if people could foresee how much that affected us, especially in that four-year classification in 6A. That said, that is part of life. Things are going to come at you and you have to meet those challenges. You will face adversity in life, but in the midst of all that, you have to have perseverance and resilience. If you are going to ask your kids to show those things, you have to model it yourself. The coaches here have done a great job of that. Even in the midst of this tough season, our coaches have had a positive impact on our kids. We love our kids. They have fought this whole season. No one has quit on us because things have gone bad. That is due to the leadership from their coaches. We all have come to work every day, what more could you ask for?”
Hollinsworth was quick to shoot down the notion that all of Station Camp’s struggles are due to the rezoning.
“I don’t want to place the entire thing on that, it is just a factor,” he said. “We have a light junior class and people can say, ‘Well, you are losing kids elsewhere.’ But you know every other school is facing the same thing. That is due to parents thinking they need to move their kids, and that is their prerogative. I will say it was a good opportunity here for guys like Josh Malone, Kyle Anderton, Randall Toney and several other guys that are playing collegiate football. There is always a place for those kinds of guys.
“All that said, it is tough when you are playing schools like Mt. Juliet with 2,300 kids and you look at your hallways and you have 1,300. It’s just a numbers game at that point.”
Final game at Station Camp
Following his final game versus Wilson Central last Friday, this offseason will mark the first time in 17 years that Hollinsworth doesn’t have to prepare for his next Bison season. But he said his faith reassures him that he will be taken care of, and he will know exactly which path to take.
“It will be a very scary thing for me to not know (what is next),” he said. “God willing, I will coach next year because I still want to compete and continue to coach and influence kids in a positive way. I want to use my coaching and teaching as a tool to reach kids in that manner.
“I work very tirelessly at my job,” he continued. “I always try my best and not let anyone outwork me or my team. We are always going to be prepared the best we can to be competitive. The last few years have been difficult to deal with. We’ve had a ton of injuries and things happened that were out of our control.”
Hollinsworth made it very clear that he has no intention of stopping coaching. He is a football guy through and through, and he intends to his whistle again next fall.
“I am a football coach, that is what I do,” he said. “I will take a break after tonight to clear my mind of everything and do a little soul searching. I will reflect on all the positive things I have done and evaluate what I need to work on. I will use a plan to start preparing myself for either a head coaching position or an assistant, whatever that entails. Good Lord willing, I will be able to find a job that encompasses my degree in English that will correspond with a coaching position at another school. I don’t have a specific place. I will just pray about (it) and see where life takes me.”
Crook and Athletic Director Patrick Duffer will sit down in the coming days to discuss the football opening at Station Camp. The school hopes to find the “right fit” soon.