Covid-19 prematurely ended football season for the Fairley High School Bulldogs, but the three-time defending Shelby County Interscholastic Athletic Association (SCIAA) Champions are back as if they never left the field. Their recent 18-12 win against Mitchell High School gave the Bulldogs their ninth victory this season. So, what’s the secret to the team’s success? According to Fred Copeland, Fairley’s head football coach, it’s discipline. “We preach discipline in the classroom, coming to school making sure we’re staying on top of our work because that flows to the football field and everything else,” said Copeland.
The Fairley Bulldogs kicked off the season confidently, despite being at a disadvantage. Prior to this season, the team had not played in two years while many of their opponents returned to the gridiron for the 2020-2021 football season. “We're a little behind the eight-ball compared to some of the other schools, but the students are positive, they’re excited and getting it,” said Copeland. Howard Passmore, a senior at Fairley, is overjoyed to be back on the field after being away from the game for so long. “It feels great. I’m playing for joy; I’m having fun playing football. It just hit me that it’s my last year playing football,” reflected Passmore. Though they won’t get that time back, he and his teammates are giving it their all and playing every game as if it is their last.
A Safe and Successful Program
With the return to school sports, Fairley has remained unwavering in its commitment to ensuring the health and safety of all student-athletes. “We’ve made a push to make sure we play safe. Yesterday, about 65% of our athletes got vaccinated so we’re just trying to make sure we can stay on the field, by making sure we’re being safe in school and outside of it,” said Copeland. In Memphis, our schools have continued to take measures to ensure the health and well-being of their school community. Recently, our schools have partnered with ShotRX to offer vaccination opportunities for families and eligible students on campus. Today, every player on the team is vaccinated.
"We preach discipline in the classroom, coming to school making sure we’re staying on top of our work because that flows to the football field and everything else."
— Fred Copeland, Fairley head football coach
Over the summer, in preparation for their first football season in two years, Copeland sought out an opportunity to provide his players with college exposure and crucial football training. Fairley Bulldogs participated in training camps at the University of Memphis and University of Tennessee at Martin. The training camps provided students with a unique opportunity to see themselves in college and receive a college level pre-season training experience. “They got a chance to say, ‘hey if I work hard, I too can be in this division one program on this campus,” said Copeland. The training camps made Fairley senior, Howard Passmore, even more excited for his future. “It was fantastic! It was another experience to see what things at the next level look like, things outside of high school. Basically, what life would look like if you went to college,” said Passmore.
For the Love of the Game
Regardless of how the season ends, Copeland is sure students will have plenty to take away from the experience. The most important lesson he hopes students take away from football is how to grow from adversity. “When adversity hits don’t quit. In football when you get hit or when you’re losing, are you going to quit are you going to quit or keep going,” said Copeland. “We all know in adult life we all have adversity where things don’t go as you want them to, but you have to persevere, push through and achieve that end goal.”
A good football program starts with a good school. If you have a bad day at school, you’re going to have a bad day on the field."
— Carmello Hollingsworth, Fairley senior
Copeland and his team are committed to helping student-athletes win, on the field, but more importantly in life. “My goal is just to make sure my seniors have a plan, whether that's college, career, technical school, or whatever, I just want to ensure they are off to a great start in their adult lives,” said Copeland. “Football is just a tool that we use to teach discipline and adversity, and how to prepare for life as adults.”
At Green Dot, our academic program ensures students are prepared for college, concurrently our schools’ athletic programs support students in cultivating the leadership and life skills needed to be successful on the field and in the classroom. “A good football program starts with a good school. If you have a bad day at school, you’re going to have a bad day on the field,” said Carmello Hollingsworth, a senior at Fairley.
For Copeland and his team, every moment is a teachable moment and an opportunity to help Fairley student-athletes reach their full potential. “We’re always practicing excellence in everything we do on the field, in the classroom, and in their personal lives,” said Copeland. “We’re really just pushing these young men to be the best.”