Charismatic and energetic, Mark Colebrook struggled when asked to take over as head boys’ basketball coach at Brogden Middle School.
He had no ties to the rural community.
And administrators asked him to replace a legend, Demetric Wright.
Colebrook sought advice from the first lady at Greenleaf Christian Church.
“She told me that when I went into teaching and I was having a hard day, she said ‘it’s not about the job, but about ministry … everything you do for the kids,’” Colebrook recalled. “‘You sew the seeds now and later on they will reap the benefits. Don’t take it personal and what you do is for the love of the kids.’ If you look at it from that lens and I have since that day, I don’t have any bad days.”
Yet, Colebrook remained apprehensive.
He spoke at length with Wright’s family. He shared his impression of the program and stressed he did not intend to replace the late coach, but to continue his legacy.
Brogden won the WCMSAC Division I title in Wright’s final season.
Could Colebrook match that success?
“I thought it would drop off a little bit because I was new, not only taking over as a coach, but I was new to the school [and community],” Colebrook said. “One of the things I said when I took over is that we establish a basketball culture.”
Colebrook held his players accountable.
They filled out academic and behavior logs.
On game day, they wore a shirt and tie.
“I really wanted it not to be middle school,” Colebrook said. “I wanted it to be like high school and college so when they got to those places and the coaches had these expectations, it would be habit for them because this is what my middle school coach expected of me.”
Colebrook encountered more challenges.
He instilled old-school values to help create a two-way dialogue with his players. He used ingenious ways to motivate the team, particularly his three leaders - eighth-graders Green, Williams and Carmon.
Green served as the engine.
Williams didn’t make a stamp offensively on the stat sheets, but he emerged as the “grunt” — the guy who endured floor burns as he dove for loose balls or caused held-ball possessions.
A quiet leader, Carmon learned to become vocal on the court.
The players learned wins and losses carried little weight compared to their development on and off the court as students.
It’s a strategy that paid dividends.
Over the past three seasons, the Rams have firmly established themselves as the brand name among their fellow WCMSAC opponents. They’ve compiled a 36-3 worksheet in regular-season play and hoisted three consecutive WCMSAC Division I championship trophies.
Colebrook never anticipated this run.
Nor did he expect to receive the 2019-20 WCMSAC Coach-of-the-Year award.
“I’m just as humbled as I can be,” Colebrook said. “I do this for the love of the kids. What pleased me the most about this year was watching the development of the team. It’s been phenomenal, been a great experience.”