NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Perry Woolbright is certainly a young head high school football coach at 28.
Yet if it's possible to pass down football knowledge through generations, the first-year North Myrtle Beach High coach is rich in football coaching wisdom.
Both Woolbright's father, Marty, and grandfather, Cecil, were head coaches at South Carolina high schools for more than 30 years.
His father was a head coach at Lower Richland, Gilbert and Clover, and reached the state semifinals four times.
His grandfather started the Latta football program and later won state titles at both Cardinal Newman and Chapin.
"I'm 28 years old but I feel I've got a lot more experience than my age," Woolbright said. "I've grown up around the game and seen a lot of situations with both of them being head coaches. I started going to football camp with my dad when I was 3 years old, and I've been out there every single day since."
The era for the third generation of Woolbright head coaches begins tonight with the Chiefs' season-opener at Conway.
"There haven't really been any big surprises to me because I feel I've been preparing for it my whole life," Woolbright said. "I always knew since I was little and while I was playing I wanted to coach."
Woolbright is in his sixth year coaching. He spent one year as a graduate assistant at Appalachian State after playing there, one year as the offensive coordinator at Fort Dorchester High, one year as the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Division II Chowan College in Murfreesboro, N.C., and two years as the offensive coordinator at Gaffney High.
At Appalachian State, Woolbright backed up quarterback Richie Williams and won a state title under legendary longtime Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore.Woolbright's coaching philosophy is a melding of the ideas of his father, grandfather, Moore and the coaches he's worked under over the past four years. "I've kind of taken a little bit of all their philosophies and kind of turned it into my own, which has really helped me develop a core group of ideas and philosophies to help me run my program," he said.
The Chiefs are coming off a 4-7 campaign in 2009, and Woolbright looks to Myrtle Beach's consecutive appearances in the Class AAA state title game as an example of what can be done on the Grand Strand and at the beach, where high school athletes often have part-time jobs and social options.
"We feel there's no reason we shouldn't be a success," Woolbright said. ". . . Our two demographics aren't that much different. We've got about the same type kids. But they've done a great job working it from the youth programs on up and really building a program down there, and we're trying to do the same things up here."
Woolbright has started to put his stamp on the program with what he's asking of his players.
"He wants the best for us, so he works us a lot conditioning-wise and in the weight room," said senior quarterback Timmy Bellamy, who is in his third year on varsity. "He's always on us to make sure we finish all our reps and stuff like that."
Woolbright's youthful exuberance has led him to take an active role in practices, to the point of throwing to receivers during drills and throwing the ball 50 or 60 yards in the air to simulate kickoffs during special teams drills.
"It's a pleasure to have a coach like him that pushes that hard," Bellamy said. "[The previous coaches] worked us pretty hard too, but he's on us more than they were. He's a head coach who likes to get more involved instead of sitting back and watching the assistants a lot. He likes to get his hands dirty."
The work Woolbright has put his players through in the preseason has apparently infused confidence into them. Bellamy is predicting a victory over Conway in tonight's season opener. "I do believe they're going to come to play, but I don't think they're going to be that tough, and our players feel the same way," Bellamy said.
Woolbright hopes to build a program that can rival the consistency that Conway's has shown over the past three decades. "If you look at a lot of great coaches in the state, [Gaffney's] Phil Strickland started at 28, Chuck Jordan got his first job young at 28 or 29, [Dillon] coach Jackie Hayes started at 28. A lot of the older coaches that have great programs all started at a young age."