The White Hall School Board voted to hire Bobby Bolding as head football coach and athletic director at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Bolding will take over at White Hall following the retirement of Mike Vaughn, who has coached the Bulldogs since 2004. Bolding comes from Pine Bluff, where he has coached since 2007. He led the Zebras to two state titles and nine semi-final appearances. Bolding also led Stuttgart to a state title.
Bolding said he was attracted to White Hall because "I think it has got a lot of potential. I think they have had years where they have been really good, and we just want to take what Coach Vaughn has done and level it out at the top and be in everybody’s conversation at the start of the year. We want to be one of those teams that everyone is talking about at the beginning of the year in 5A. That is where we are trying to get to in regards to football.”
Bolding said that he knows there is work to be done to get the program where he wants it to be.
“There is a lot of work that is going to have to take place, not just by me, but by the other coaches and all of the players,” Bolding said. “I need them to buy in. The administration has bought in, and it is my job to get everybody else to buy into the process. I think our process works and we have shown that with what we did at Pine Bluff and at Stuttgart. We just have to get these young men to buy into that process.”
Bolding said he spoke about what he wants to accomplish both on and off of the field during his interview for the job.
“We just spoke about what we want to do offensively. We adapt to what our kids can do,” Bolding said. “Over the years, we have won conference, state championships, state championship appearances, and semi-finals with the I-Formation, the slot, the spread option, and the spread. We have done a little bit of everything. We adapt to what our kids can do and don’t ask them to do things they can’t.”
“Defensively, we stay pretty simple,” Bolding continued. “We like to put our best players on that side of the ball. If we can stop people, we are going to have a chance in the fourth quarter. We try to be fundamentally sound on special teams.”
For Bolding, the job is more than just coaching football, it is about building successful young men.
“I think, most importantly, we try to coach the whole player and not just the football player,” Bolding said. “We want to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do in the classroom, how they act on the field and how they look on the field and when they are representing the White Hall School District. Those are all things that are important to me.”
White Hall Superintendent Doug Dorris said that the administration spoke with more than 100 coaches before narrowing it down to five finalists.
“Fifty applied for the position, which really surprised us," Dorris said. "We narrowed those down to 15 individuals, then went through the interview process. We probably had the most thorough interview process that I’ve been involved in. We had the coaches come in to talk with the board. They drew up offense, defense, and special teams. We went through the whole thing. We were looking for the best person we could find. At the end of it, we went through the 15 interviews and cut it down to five. We had a committee of six individuals – all administrators in this district. We sat down and talked about it and felt like he was the best fit for us. At that point, we offered it to him. We had to wait for approval from our school board, but we feel like we got ourselves a dandy.”
Dorris said it is "amazing" for White Hall to get someone with the coaching pedigree that Bolding brings to the table.
“That is the best word I can say,” he said. “We had some very qualified people come through. I was totally amazed at the talent and the young coaches out there who wanted this job, but we are very fortunate to have Bobby Bolding as our coach.”
There are many high school football fans across the state on social media and message boards who have said that they believe the White Hall football program is a sleeping giant. Dorris said he hopes Bolding and his staff will be able to awaken that giant.
“The whole time I coached here, we couldn’t even spell speed half of the time,” Dorris said. “Right now, we are in a situation where this junior class and senior class have some pretty good talent, and we have more speed than we’ve had in a long time. We’ve had better quarterbacks, running backs, and better linemen, but we have never had this must speed at one time. We’ve got several kids who can scoot pretty good.”
The White Hall School Board also approved the hiring of two assistants from Pine Bluff who will make the move with Bolding.
“Antonio Lovelady, my offensive coordinator has been with me for 12 years. He is coming with me from Pine Bluff,” Bolding said. “He is one of my best coaches, and he is going to be my right hand. I have nothing but the utmost confidence in these guys. Blake Johnson has been with me for two years. Blake played at Ouachita Baptist. I kind of got him by a stroke of luck, and he has done a fabulous job for us. He is hungry and energetic, and is a perfect guy to be on the defensive side of the ball.”
Bolding said Lovelady and Johnson are completely sold on the plan he has for the Bulldog football program.
"I know they are loyal, and I know they know our process and they believe in it ... they are going to work hard to sell it," Bolding said. “They care about kids, and that is a prerequisite for me. If it is all about football you probably don’t need to work for me. You can’t sustain yourself in this profession if it is just all about football. You will grind yourself to death.”
Current athletic director Tim Atkinson will become the assistant principal at White Hall Middle School, which opened the door for Bolding to also be named the new athletic director for the Bulldogs.
“I’m starting a new chapter and am going to be the assistant middle school principal,” said Atkinson. “I will graduate with my specialist’s degree in August and will do some new things in life. I will still be a part of the program. I’m still going to be the head athletic trainer, so I’m not completely out of it.”
Atkinson said he believes White Hall got the best football coach who was available on the market.
“We went out to try to get the best coach, and we feel like we did that,” said Atkinson. “With what Coach Bolding represents we feel like we will get the best out of our kids both as a person and on the football field, so we are excited to get him on board.”
Bolding noted that he was told it may take him a year to get the program where he wants it to be, but he said he doesn’t have a year to get there.
“I don’t have a year. I’ve got some seniors at White Hall, and they want to win now,” Bolding said. “I can’t spend a year just trying. I’ve got to be hustling for those young men to give them the best opportunity to win this year, and that is what I intend to do.”