After seven years pacing in front of the bench as coach of the Chadron Cardinals’ boys’ basketball team, Eric Calkins has resigned his position as head coach.
Calkins, also a social studies and science teacher at Chadron Middle School, says that the time was right for the change.
“I’m an all-in type of guy,” says Calkins. “For seven years basketball was number one. I didn’t really have a good balance between that and everything else. It’s time to spend some time on other things.”
As an educator, there’s plenty to keep Calkins busy outside of sports, but given how involved high school basketball programs are these days, it takes an incredible effort on behalf of the support staff to keep up. Between individual workouts and open gym in the summer, a seven-week summer-league, and two or three team camps, coachers, and their players, don’t even get much of a break during the off-season.
Despite the effort, Calkins advises the next coach to enjoy it. “There are a lot of ups and downs with coaching. But there’s more ups than downs.”
“(In) Chadron, you might not have the best basketball team every year, but every year we have a great group of kids,” he says. “There’s very few off-the-court problems. We’re pretty fortunate to have good, quality, kids in Chadron.”
Highlights of Calkins time coaching include taking his team to State in 2015, and going undefeated at home the previous year while defeating three ranked Class B teams in games that came down to the wire.
“The group we took to state (in 2015) was probably the most over-achieving group of kids I’ve coached in my life,” he says. “When you have three five-foot-seven, five-foot-eight guards, and two six-foot tall post players. We were ranked number one in the state right after Christmas. That was exciting.”
Stepping away from position won’t be easy. “It’s going to be difficult for a while,” he says, “but I know in the long run it’s the right decision.”
“I’ve always had a passion for basketball, and it’s still there, it’s just not there to the level it has to be to put in the amount of time required,” says Calkins.
“Two years ago,” he continues, “seven-thirty would roll around and I’d be chomping at the bit to get to the gym. That’s just not there anymore, and if I don’t have that kind of enthusiasm the kids will eventually see that, and it’s not going to help anyone be successful.”
Chadron’s search for their next head coach should coincide with two teacher openings at the high school, according to school’s athletic director Andy Pope.
The school has not yet received any applications for the teaching positions, but it’s still early in the process. “We’re kind of in a wait mode right now,” says Pope.
Pope did mention that Mitch Barry, the team’s current assistant coach, has expressed interest, and will be considered for the position.
“Coach Barry did a fantastic job with me this year, and he did a fantastic job in his first stint with me,” says Calkins. “I think he’d do a fine job if he got the opportunity.