Patrick Bolen hasn’t yet coached his first game at Memorial Day School in Savannah, but he is already making an impact.
Hired in May as an assistant football coach and head baseball coach for the Matadors, the former South Effingham High School standout has been plenty busy well before last Friday’s start of preseason football practice.
Bolen signed a 14-month contract with Memorial so he could get started this summer. He has been involved with the summer weight training for the school’s athletes, and his initial baseball meeting attracted about 40 students interested in playing.
Bolen has also been working many hours in the searing heat helping MDS school board member Bobby Miller install an irrigation system at Lions Club Park in Port Wentworth, where Memorial plays its baseball games. It’s part of an upgrade to make the park a first-class facility not just for his team, but the entire community.
“Patrick has already made his presence felt with the hard work and dedication he has shown working on our baseball field. His goal of creating one of the best fields in Chatham County that all of our young adults can enjoy is getting closer and closer to reality,” said Mark Sussman, director of athletics and development at Memorial Day School.
The plans for the park also include a new visitors’ dugout with a press box on top, and dugout-to-dugout safety netting “like the pros have,” Bolen said. To make it a reality, Bolen has been soliciting donations from the community.
“We don’t have the funding public schools have. I think the hardest thing I’ve had to do is go out in the community to ask for funding,” Bolen said.
“Patrick brings with him his youthful enthusiasm for the classroom and the field,” Sussman said. “His personality is garnering players and parent support which is monumental for such a young coach. I am totally confident that Patrick can and will be as successful as he desires.”
Although the first couple months of Bolen’s coaching career haven’t exactly been glamorous, he is just thankful for the opportunity.
“It’s all part of the job,” he said. “You just have to have the love of the game and the love to teach.”
Bolen got the opportunity thanks to the impression he made a few years earlier at South Effingham.
In December 2008, the same month he played his final game with the Georgia Southern football team, Bolen earned his degree in health and physical education from GSU. However, he found that school districts weren’t looking to hire teachers in the middle of the school year, or they were in a hiring freeze following the economic downturn.
So Bolen paid his dues, working in fields outside of teaching and coaching. The break he needed was a phone call earlier this year from his former high school coach, Mike Harper.
After coaching in the Atlanta area, Harper had returned to southeast Georgia as dean of students at Memorial. He called his former placekicker and told him to “be at the school at 8 o’clock the next day and meet with the headmaster,” Bolen said.
“(Coach Harper) thought I’d be a good fit because he saw in me what he taught — things like being respectful, having good character, having a good attitude,” Bolen said. “He wants me to take what he taught me and teach it to kids at Memorial.”
That meet-and-greet led to an interview and then a job offer, reuniting Bolen not just with Harper but also with Memorial head coach and former Georgia Southern teammate Michael Thompson. Bolen is confident that his experience as a college athlete, along with Thompson’s will make him better coach.
“I’ll just be able to relate (to the players), if they need something,” Bolen said. “We’ve been in summer workouts, we’ve been in winter workouts (as players). I have seen what works and what doesn’t, and what you have to do to get to the next level.”
When Memorial opens its 2012 season against Mount de Sales on Aug. 31, Bolen will be back on the field on game day for the first time since his college career ended. In the meantime, he has been watching Georgia Southern games from his parents’ season tickets in the stands, where he admits the game feels “a little slow” compared to being one of the players on the field.
Now, with Bolen coaching so close to home, his parents will be able to attend Memorial’s games and watch his new team.
“Family is family,” Bolen said, “and my mom and dad are going to support me in everything I do. It’ll be fun.”