From his youth to this point in time, sports have been a central focus of Heath Blalock’s life both as a player and a coach. Blalock, Prairiland High School’s new head football coach, knows the importance sports have held in his life, which helped shape his future beyond high school.
“I grew up in Tom Bean and participated in all sports except for track — I wasn’t really swift of foot,” Blalock said. “That (high school) is as far as I went in playing sports, but I knew from seventh or eighth grade is that I wanted to coach. Athletics has been my life for 30 years, so it was an easy decision.”
The decision was made easier by the strong influence of two role models in his life. A certain teacher and coach duo at Tom Bean High School helped Blalock realize his desire to help coach and educate student-athletes as a career.
“One of my heroes growing up was David Hoerner. He was my head (football) coach at Tom Bean, and his wife was very influential in my life as well,” Blalock said. “I knew I wanted to teach and coach because of them.”
Blalock went on to lead the football program at Waxahachie Life High School for several years until recently accepting the opening at Prairiland. However, Blalock was ready for the next chapter in his coaching career.
With that, undergoing a major life change is hard enough under normal circumstances, but Blalock faces more challenges than the average newly-hired coach. Blalock and his family moved to Paris from Waxahachie while dealing with the lingering COVID-19 concerns.
In addition to these factors, Blalock is also a part of the U.S. Army Reserve, meaning he could be deployed overseas at any time when his service is needed. However, gaining familiarity with his new athletes, coaching staff, and community members have presented a larger challenge for Blalock than that of the other obstacles.
“We have a mix of new coaches and coaches that have been here. We just have to get to know each other and work hard for the kids,” Blalock said. “I think a lot of times, some of our biggest challenge is getting something lined out and making sure our kids are as prepared as they can be. Getting to know everyone through this corona — I came to work for a week. Then, that (coronavirus) hit, and we didn’t come back until summer workouts. So, getting to know the kids and coaches hasn’t been as easy as it would under normal circumstances.”
The bottom line in sports is to win games and compete for championships. However, Blalock values another deep and meaningful aspect of coaching even more than his desire to populate the win column.
“My main goal as a coach has always been to get kids graduated, to see them become better young men, and to see them handle the likes of college, their first job, and other stuff like that,” Blalock said. “We try to build camaraderie to accommodate that. We want to win football games, but more importantly, we want to put great kids out into the community.”
As someone who has and continues to serve our nation, Blalock made a rare purchase that is both uniquely related to his military background and a form of leisurely activity.
“I have a 1942 World War II Jeep that I enjoy riding around on,” Blalock said. “I bought it from a guy in the metroplex, he was moving to Europe for a job, and he had to get rid of it quick.”
As a sports enthusiast, Blalock enjoyed attending sporting events from a young age. However, one trip to the ballpark turned out to be one Blalock could have humorously gone without remembering.
“I was probably about 12 years old and my little league coach took my team and me to a Texas Rangers game at the old stadium,” Blalock said. “I was carrying drinks and I guess I just tripped, went down several stairs, and spilled all the drinks.”
Just as life goes, humor and karma live on in cycles, which Blalock is aware of. Looking back, he also has humorous memories from his coaching days.
“During a previous stop in my coaching career, we had a noseguard that put his hand on the ball to snap it,” Blalock said. “That was something funny that always stuck out to me in my mind.”
Families provide unity, strength, and comfort. For Blalock, as long as he has his wife in his corner, his happy place can be anywhere regardless of the everyday obstacles work and life throw his way.
“Being anywhere with my wife is my happy place. She’s an incredible person,” Blalock said. “She has a knack for keeping me calm and I always know she’s going to take good care of my family. It always helps with stress knowing you’ve got someone like that.”
Blalock looks to put his imprint on the Prairiland varsity football program in his first year with the school. The Patriots are scheduled to open up the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28 at home against Alba-Golden.