Nearing the 20 year mark as head coach of St. Augustine High School football team, Joey Wiles has witnessed the success that comes from hard work and dedication, on and off the field. Joey Wiles has led the high school team to seven State Final Four game appearances, racked up a total of 47 straight district wins, and a 2005 State Football Championship win. When he isn’t on the field, he’s in the classroom, where he teaches anatomy courses and weight lifting. He has also served in volunteer positions as FACA State Football Chairman and President, was named Coach of the Year by the Jacksonville Jaguars and has a total of 232 wins as head coach under his belt. He believes in always giving your best and giving back. In his many roles, he strives to lead by example on the field, in the classroom and out in the community.
High school football is a year-round commitment, from both the coaches and the players. “A lot more goes into the game than just hitting the field every Friday night,” Wiles said. The official season starts in August with a Kick-Off Classic game and continues through to November. Between the early morning meetings, daily practices and game nights, those four months result in a full six-day-a-week schedule with little down time. Wiles and his coaching staff spend countless hours reviewing video clips from after-school practices during the week and take notes on key plays and areas that need tuning up. They then meet with the players in the early morning before the school day starts to go over their notes and make sure they are all on the same page.
HITTING THE BOOKS
Following the early morning meeting, the players hit the books and Wiles steps into his other role at the head of the classroom, teaching five anatomy classes and two weight lifting courses. One of the biggest lessons he has learned during his nearly two decades of coaching for St. Augustine has been how to best manage his time. On top of coaching and teaching, Wiles is also a dedicated father and husband, celebrating 33 years of marriage. “I have been so lucky to have the love and support of my family over the years. As busy and hectic as the football schedule can be, it’s important to try to keep a balance. I try to emphasize that to my coaching staff and my players about life in general. Put in hard work and find balance. Those are the two key things to help you achieve your goals,” he said.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
Every single day Wiles and his staff reference a script during practice, which is a card that shows an opposing team’s strengths so they know what drills and plays to run leading up to a game. These scripts include the big plays, the defense, the blitz, coverage and comments from Wiles. “We put in way more time preparing for practice than the length of time the players are actually on the field, which is what 99 percent of the population doesn’t see. They think we just show up and wing it,” he said with a laugh. “The staff meets every day during the week to either prep or review, and on Saturdays we work together to analyze our upcoming opponents.”
The St. Augustine High School football team is no stranger to big wins. They pull in an average of 10 wins a season. Wiles and his staff work hard to build a strong team camaraderie and passion for the game that is reflected in the community support for the team. “I want our community to be proud of the product that we put on the field come game day. I want them to wear St. Augustine High School football shirts and our school colors and take pride in our hometown team. These kids work so hard, its good to hear the cheering coming from packed stands on Friday night,” he said.
Following the excitement of the official season, the coaches and players take a few weeks off in December and then get back to work with weight lifting classes and spring practices, leading into summer workouts and outdoor training for the upcoming season. “It takes a lot of dedication, commitment and sacrifice on the part of the players, coaches and staff,” Wiles explained.
On top of managing the coaching staff and team, Wiles also works alongside the Booster Club to raise funds and community support. And he handles any behavioral or academic issues his players may be struggling with. If a player is falling behind in one of his classes, Wiles will work with the teacher to make sure he is getting extra help if needed or will take the appropriate steps to help the player get signed up for summer school to make up the credits. He also takes an active role in each player’s future. Along with his staff, each player is encouraged to create a website page that features stats, records, GPA and highlight film for college recruiters to view.
ALL ABOUT THE KIDS
At the end of the day, Wiles says it all comes down to the kids. “The long hours, dedicated training, countless practices, never-ending video replays and endless meetings are all worth it when you consider you are helping to shape a kid’s future,” he said. “We have really great kids. More than anything, they are why I do this.”
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2015 print issue of St. Augustine Social Magazine. Photography by Rob Futrell, exclusively for St. Augustine Social.