By Anthony Rhoads
It's not hard to admire Henry County boys soccer coach Jeff Ford.
His coaching record speaks for itself.
In the late 1970s, he started the boys soccer program at Henry County High School and then went on to McIntosh High School. During his tenure at McIntosh, he turned the Chiefs into one of the premier soccer programs in the state and in the nation.
He came back to Henry County and in 2000, he guided the Warhawks to their first-ever state playoff appearance.
Last Thursday, Ford achieved a career milestone as he recorded his 300th victory at the high school level when Henry County beat Stockbridge 2-0.
Through it all, Ford has gone about it with class and he is well-respected by players, parents, officials and colleagues.
"We tried for many years to get Jeff back here," Henry County High School athletic director Chuck Miller said. "Jeff's reputation as a good man and a good coach preceded him and he has done nothing to alter his reputation. He's a true credit to his community and school."
Any time I have talked to him about his team, Ford has always deflected attention from himself and he has always wanted us at the newspaper to give attention to his kids.
In the four years I have been around Ford, I don't think I have ever heard him refer to them as his players but as ?his kids.' He is a father figure to his kids and it's obvious he really cares about them. He doesn't just care about what his players do on the soccer field but he wants them be good citizens and be successful in life.
To me, that's the true measure of success as a high school coach. A coach can lead his team to victories on the field but what is it worth if he can't set a good example for them and make them better people off the field?
Ford has been a good leader for his players and has motivated them not just through his coaching skills but through his personal life.
In sports, we often talk about players and coaches battling adversity on the field but Ford knows what true adversity is in his bouts with cancer.
There were times Ford was so racked with sickness he should have been at home in bed but he got up and went out there for his kids.
Ford later said being out there on the soccer field with his kids saved his life. He said he would have died if he hadn't have forced himself out of bed and onto the soccer field.
When Ford talks about those times, he still doesn't take much credit for himself. He said his kids motivated him and they were his inspiration.
But in reality, Ford has truly been an inspiration to not only his players but to just about everyone in the community, including this sports writer.
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.