Coaches have new players, new systems to put in place because of turnover in athletes each season, but few change game plans year in and year out like Methodist Home’s Matt Rodgers.
Methodist Children’s Home is a school located in the heart of North Waco that gives temporary and sometime long-term shelter to local youth in need of help. Whether it be a family crisis — father or mother is in jail or not around, grandparents unable to be guardians or the kids just need a push in the right direction — MCH offers a support system in a Christian environment. Though most students stay on MCH property, others live on a boys ranch in Axtell.
So as one can imagine, the school acts as a revolving door. Some last 18 months, others the full four years it takes to graduate. It’s impossible to predict. Rodgers, the athletics director and head football coach, sees the ever-changing environment around him as an opportunity to mentor young people who might be in need of some help.
“A lot of the time these kids are dealt a bad hand or just need a nudge in the right way,” Rodgers said. “That’s why we are here. To guide them in the right direction.”
Though the school has been around for decades, football — flag, to be exact — started back up nine years ago after a several decade-long hiatus. It wasn’t until 2010 that MCH decided to strap the helmets and pads on and take a whack at six-man.
Reicher, Live Oak, Parkview, Vanguard, Methodist Children's Home, Texas Wind
It didn’t take long for success to come knocking, as the Bulldogs posted a 10-1 record and made it to the TCAL state semifinals in 2013, only a year after Rodgers took the helm. Just two years later, playing in TCAF, Rodgers and MCH found themselves in the state championship game. Though the Bulldogs lost to Inspired Vision by 14, Rodgers remembers that team like it was just a moment ago.
“We had a total of five juniors and sophomores on that team that were probably our best players and all five of them left the next year,” Rodgers said. “But all went to good situations. I want to say all five of them went to a 3A or higher school and continued to play. That’s the nature of it.”
So how does Rodgers continue to thrive under the annual uncertainty that is the school’s athletic program? Since 2012, Rodgers has led the Bulldog football team to the postseason every year. With a roster that could be set early in the summer or maybe just a few weeks before the season, the process of not knowing hasn’t changed his approach.
“Each year it just seems like we are starting over,” he said. “Sometimes I have an idea of what each child’s plans are, but some of them are to be here and stay here and improve. Some are here to graduate, but it always changes.”
Rodgers remembers a season in which his game plan changed just hours before kickoff.
“I remember a week in which a kid left on a Thursday and we lost the next day because we had a hole in a certain position,” he said. “In the time we had, it was impossible to throw a kid into another position and expect a great result.”
For schools such as the Methodist Home, athletics comprise a large part of a teaching process for kids who might not have had that certain type of discipline in their lives growing up. Backgrounds are all different, no two stories are the same.
The school now offers a variety of sports for both boys and girls — volleyball, basketball, track and most recently golf — and continues its ever-growing mission to help kids in any way possible. However long the stay — four months or four years — Rodgers’ mission statement has remained the same throughout.
“We know each situation is unique, each young person is different,” he said. “For us to be successful in football, we teach the kids that stay with us to be good examples to the other kids coming in, so we lean on those veteran type of guys to be leaders and to be a loud voice of guidance.
“If nothing else, we hope we can make their lives just a little bit better in their time with us.”