Once a competitor, always a competitor. That is how Jerry Rhoades found himself accepting the reigns of the Camp Verde High School football team after serving as interim head coach for the majority of the 2016 season.
Rhoades, who had retired from full-time coaching, accepted a teaching position at the school in order to pay bills and volunteered as an assistant coach. He thought he was going to have a pretty relaxed lifestyle.
But just weeks into the 2016 season he was thrust into the head coaching job, and at the end of the fall semester was asked to stay on as the full-time head coach.
“The mode in which I was in, the retired mode, I thought I could teach Spanish, coach a little football and go home, and I wouldn’t have to have the headache of really anything,” Rhoades said. “But just the competitive side of me says ‘You can do this, you’ve done it before.’”
He took over for former coach Steve Darby midway through the year and helped the team to a 3-6 record, capped with a 12-8 win against Verde Valley rival Sedona Red Rock High School.
Recognizing that the players’ abilities did not match the spread offense they were running, he changed the scheme to more of an I-formation that resulted in more possessions and points on the board.
Rhoades may not stick to the same game plan for the upcoming season, but he does know what he wants to do in order to get the program going in the right direction.
“We’ve got to build the foundation, it didn’t take very long to realize that,” Rhoades said. “We needed so much help from an athletic standpoint, The main focus, the main push is to get the kids, No. 1, into shape. Get them to where they can get in and out of a stance.”
The plan is simple: Build from the ground up. What he brings to the table is simple: The focus to do so.
“A single-minded approach to getting better on both sides of the football,” Rhoades said. “Not getting better as a team collectively, but getting better individually that will make us better collectively.”
His background as a defensive coordinator gives him confidence on that side of the ball, and will also use it to frustrate the opposition.
“From a defensive standpoint I’m much more comfortable,” Rhoades said. “I know what gives defensive coordinators fits.”
Every coach has a certain personality, and Rhoades admitted that he brings a high amount of energy.
“I’m probably a combination of an in-your-face kind of guy and an X’s and O’s kind of guy,” Rhoades said. “I’m not really calm on the sidelines.”
Rhoades wants to work with the players’ fitness during the coming months, and could begin to implement an offense and defense, but at the moment turnout is low.
However, that does not lower his aspirations, looking to finish with a plus .500 record and for the program to become a perennial playoff team.
After graduating from Northern Arizona University, Rhoades began coaching in 1991 as a freshman coach at Bradshaw Mountain High School. He bounced around various teaching and coaching jobs throughout the years that even included a stint at a high school in Santa Fe, N.M. in 2001.
Rhoades returned to the Verde Valley in 2002 to help at Mingus Union High School, took his first head coaching job at Payson High School from 2003 to 2006, and went to Desert Mountain High School from 2006 to 2012 before retiring from the gridiron.
He was an administrator from 2012 to 2016 at Patagonia High School before moving to Mayer to live with his sister, where he realized he had to work to pay his medical bills.
Rhoades applied to be an assistant principal and athletic director at CVHS but became a Spanish teacher and volunteer coach. He now works as a P.E. teacher and, despite it not being part of his original plan, is preparing for the upcoming season.
“I thought I was in heaven, and you know, I guess God had different plans,” Rhoades said. “I came here just to relax and to help Coach Darby .... It’s been kind of a crazy, crazy year, but I guess it’s where I’m supposed to be.”