For a while now, Brian Turner has been taking in the last moments at Nation Ford High. After 11 years as the school’s director of athletics, Turner said he will be retiring at the end of the 2017-’18 school year.
Turner, 52, is the last member of the original sports administration for the school, having outlasted every one of the original coaches he hired when Nation Ford opened in 2007. He has amassed 31 years in education, 21 of those within the Fort Mill School District. Turner said he isn’t through working altogether and plans on exploring options in the private sector.
“I have a lot of options,” he said. “I’m not just going to go play golf. I might go into the private sector and find a job. I love to travel. The travel industry appeals to me. I have checked into a lot of things. Maybe some kind of job in the private sector that still deals with high school athletics.”
Before becoming the first athletic director at Nation Ford, Turner spent a decade at Fort Mill High as a teacher and head boys’ basketball coach, among other duties.
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Turner said he will miss the obvious things the most, like the relationships he has with the kids, coaches and parents.
“Those are things that linger on,” he said.
“The relationships you build are what last. They make you feel young. I have been going to high school most of my whole life. I entered high school as a freshman in 1980 and except for three years in the mid-1980s, I have been getting up every morning going to a high school. It keeps you young. It keeps you fresh. Even though you go to the same building, it’s a new crop of kids that come through every year.”
Change is inevitable, Turner said, looking at how the school itself has changed over the first decade-plus of its existence.
“Nation Ford is a totally different school now than it was 11 years ago,” he said. “Even the faculty and the coaches. You think about the coaches. I am the only one left. (Former softball) Coach (Michael) Kidd was the last other original coach.” Kidd retired last spring.
Turner said living in a town like Fort Mill where growth is a constant, there has been constant turnover and new faces coming and going every year.
“You don’t have to move to get a new experience,” he said. “You can just stay put and it will change right in front of your eyes. I think that is what I will miss is that freshness. Especially in Fort Mill where you got that change over. You feel like you have been a part of something. Fort Mill from when I moved here in 1997 it is not the same.”
Turner said he isn’t leaving with any regrets and never got into sports to win titles.
“I didn’t get into this profession and have a goal of ‘X-amount’ of wins,” he said. “To me, I became a teacher and a coach because I want to make a difference in kids’ lives. I wanted to share things I cared about. I loved coaching and playing different sports. It wasn’t because I had goals of individual accomplishments.”
During his time as athletics director at Nation Ford, Turner has also served as boys’ and girls’ head basketball coach on different occasions and served as boys’ golf coach as well – all while juggling his other responsibilities. Turner said he will miss seeing watching the student-athletes learn and progress.
Turner said it was a tough transition from Fort Mill to Nation Ford and helping establish a school by creating an identity with its athletic program.
“The biggest challenge for this job was starting from scratch,” he said.
“Then dealing with the rivalry (with Fort Mill) right off the bat and all the emotions that went with it. Then trying to establish a school culture and traditions and establish stability. It is hard to do when you start off new. It was hard coming from a small town mentality at Fort Mill. Fort Mill was a tight knit group. I loved it there. Some of my years at Fort Mill were my favorite years of my profession. It was more difficult than I though. It was tough. It really was. For both schools, we had never done it before.”
Nation Ford Principal Jason Johns said there was more Turner did behind the scenes that the public will never know about when it came to helping the school’s athletes and the programs.
“Coach Turner’s consistent leadership has been a tremendous benefit for our student athletes,” Johns said.
“Coach Turner always puts our student-athletes first. He is a very humble and makes every decision based on what is best for our kids. Coach Turner’s impact at Nation Ford is incredible. His influence can be seen throughout every aspect of our school. Coach Turner is such a humble person. He truly has a service mindset and does so many things behind the scene that most folks do not realize.”
Turner said he has started the process of retiring by notifying those who needed to know first and that the school will most likely have his replacement named by sometime in March.
“I think we will get some good applicants,” he said. “They will have the challenge of dealing with a third high school, that whole transition process. I am sure we will lose some coaches. It will be a challenge whoever gets the job. I think we are in a good sport. Overall I think our athletic program is in a good spot. They are more sound and more stable than they were in the first couple years.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MacBanksFM