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Sports: Tough region is a plus for new WHS football coach

By Charles Swenson
For the Observer

The new head football coach at Waccamaw High knows how to motivate kids in the classroom and on the field. As Shane Fidler prepares to take over a program that went 1-9 last year, it’s his skill in another area that will also count: the hallway.

“He genuinely cares about his kids. He’s constantly recruiting,” said Chris Collins, athletics director and former head football coach at Colleton County High School, where Fidler has been an assistant since 2014. “He’s a hard coach, but he knows when to give them a break.”

Fidler will continue to teach social studies at Colleton through the end of the school year, but will drive to Waccamaw to lead spring football practice. His contract with the Georgetown County School District, approved Tuesday, won’t take effect until August. “There will be a lot of driving,” principal David Hammel said. “He’s doing it all on his own dime.”

Hammel did the same thing when he was hired as athletics director at Carvers Bay. “It’s part of that occupation,” he said.

Fidler was one of 52 applicants to fill the vacancy left by Tryonne Davis, who stepped down last month. Davis will continue as an assistant principal at Waccamaw. The position drew interest from around South Carolina and out of state. Two of the 11 candidates invited for interviews came from Virginia and Illinois, Hammel said. Many, like Fidler, brought notebooks that mapped out their strategy for building the team.

“The area was an incentive. The chance to grow a program was an incentive,” Hammel said.

“Who wouldn’t want to live at Pawleys Island?” said Fidler. He grew up in York, Pa., but vacationed in the Myrtle Beach area. He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in history. He found his calling when he became a tutor and an assistant football coach at Gray Military Academy in Columbia. He earned a master’s degree in teaching.

Fidler coached football and soccer at Eau Claire High before Collins recruited him at Colleton County. The program was coming off a string of 36 losses in one of the state’s toughest regions.

The Warriors moved from Class AA to AAA this season. The last time the school moved up in class, the varsity football program racked up 48 losses on the field. (They won two games in forfeits.) “We have to have more players out,” Hammel said. “You’ve got to recruit in the halls.”

And that’s what the Warriors expect from Fidler. “He seems to have a history of recruiting in the halls,” said Brian Henry, the WHS Athletic Booster Club president. He served on the search committee for the football coach.

“He’s a hard-working young coach,” Collins said. “He relates well to young people and can help them improve athletically and academically.”

The Cougars were 2-10 last year and winless in the region. Nevertheless, they still averaged over 400 yards a game on offense, said Fidler, who was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Although he said he applied for the Waccamaw job “on a whim,” he sees the same sort of challenge that drew him to Colleton County. The Warriors are also in a region with Top 10 teams such as Dillon and Lake City. And the success of other teams showed Fidler that there are athletes available.

“I want the other coaches to know I’ve got their back,” he added. He will encourage the football team to play other sports and hopes his colleagues will do the same for their players.

As to his “hallway skills,” Fidler said it comes down to listening to the kids. “I try to learn what they’re about and what they’re thinking,” he said. “That could make the difference between that kid playing for you and walking away.”

He will meet the players for the first time today. They will gather in the weight room. “Everything comes from the weight room,” Fidler said. “We need the kids to understand the importance of that weight program.”

He will bring a set of core values to the program and emphasize team bonding. Fidler recognizes there are other activities that vie with football for students’ time. “We need to turn those things to our benefit,” he said.

“Everybody who’s been involved is excited about this hire,” Henry said. “He’s a young guy that brings a lot of enthusiasm to the program. He’s organized and has a plan for success on the field and for involving the community.”

Fidler needs to be organized. In addition to teaching and planning Waccamaw’s football program, he is the head coach of the Colleton County boys soccer team. It was a program that was winless before he took over. He’s now got his sights set on a playoff spot.

And one more thing: he’s getting married on April 14.

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