CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Ron Crawford sat down in his chair Wednesday afternoon at the Cleveland High School fieldhouse. Symbolically, instead of leaning back, he leaned forward, refusing to get comfortable — reflective of the craziness that has stamped his half a year as head football coach.
In his opinion, he still has a long way to go before relaxation becomes an option.
After spending the past six months going back and forth between Brentwood and Cleveland, Crawford finally has settled into his Blue Raiders job. In that time, he's stayed in a motel as well as a missionary house in trying to spend time with his players while finalizing details at his previous job and home.
"Once we got the [Cleveland] job, we had to get our house ready to put on the market," he said. "We ended up selling it at a substantially lesser amount than we bought it, but it was the first offer we'd had on it. Luckily, we bought our new house at the same price, so the deal was a wash.
"Life is now great, though. You can tell Cleveland football is important to the alumni. There are so many places to see and to eat at around here, so the social part is fun. Getting ingrained in football is different, though. We have to understand how things are done, and we're combining a new staff with holdovers from the previous coaches."
His staff includes former Cleveland head coach Leon Brown (1998-2004) and Adam Renshaw, who was head coach at Dyer County for the past nine seasons. There are 10 men on the Cleveland staff, whereas Crawford had 10 varsity coaches plus five freshman-team coaches at Brentwood.
"How we practice is a big difference," he said. "On top of all that, we have to get our offense, our defense and our kicking game in order, plus implement our summer program. It's a new culture, but we have to remain accountable and yet still build relationships with the players as well as handle the needs of the program.
"It's been kind of refreshing, though. I like being able to make a list of things to do, mark things off and carry things onto the next day. We haven't known each other long as a staff, but everybody's doing what they need to do to help. This group of 10 guys I hope can set a good example for the team."
Crawford's wife has had a hard time finding a new job, which has also been the case for new Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald still lives in Rhea County, where he previously coached.
"It's only a 25-minute drive for me, so it hasn't been bad at all," Fitzgerald said. "We've received a good response from the community, and we've reached out to some of the businesses in the area with intentions of still getting to the others."
Fitzgerald said his staff has been working to boost fan interest.
"I didn't know what to expect in coming here," he said. "In talking to people, it seems that we've lost the community spirit, and we'd like to get it back.
"It's been kind of fun evaluating people. We didn't have some guys out during spring practice because of track, and we've just started getting a look at them. It's not just about evaluating the players, but us coaches as well.
"We're here because we want to help build a championship team."