Friday Night Lights: Derek Turner, OCS Saints have learned to adapt and overcome

Despite having a coaching staff mostly made up of volunteers, Oklahoma Christian School is a defending state champion.
by Jacob Unruh Published: September 26, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma Christian School football coaches, standing from left, Ted Wild, Harrison Turner, Willie Ward, head coach Derek Turner, and Zach Holland, kneeling from left are Dan Fallon, Farrold Smith, and Tucker Holland in Edmond, Okla., Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman KOD
Oklahoma Christian School football coaches, standing from left, Ted Wild, Harrison Turner, Willie Ward, head coach Derek Turner, and Zach Holland, kneeling from left are Dan Fallon, Farrold Smith, and Tucker Holland in Edmond, Okla., Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman KOD

OCS went 9-3 in 2011 and then, of course, last season's title run happened, proving the Saints are more than just a basketball school.

“That's part of the culture change that these guys have all been a part of,” Holland said. “All of the athletes want to play basketball, supposedly. We thought we had some really good kids. Now to see it where it is today is really, really exciting.”

‘ADAPT AND OVERCOME'

Once he's decided on a hat, Derek Turner thinks how far the program has come since he started volunteering in 2003.

The campus has grown. Back then, there wasn't the press box or gymnasium neighboring the field. There wasn't even a trainer on staff.

This season's motto, “Adapt and overcome,” could have been applied then and every year since.

The Saints' staff is unique with its makeup of volunteers, but perhaps nothing compares to coaching without an office or daily coaches meetings.

“Yeah, it does present some challenges not being able to meet and not have the time together that a lot of staffs do,” assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Zach Holland said. “We kind of make it work. We've been together for so long, at least the core group has, that we know each other's strengths and weaknesses and we know what each other's roles are. It's just the stability.”

The Saints have one coach on staff who teaches at the school, Farrold Smith. The rest either have full-time jobs or attend college.

Turner employs a few of his coaches, including his son, Harrison, and Zach Holland.

Generally, the coaches are rarely together at the same time — except Friday nights and Sundays.

Sunday has become the day the coaches meet and prepare for the upcoming week. Sometimes the meeting happens, sometimes not.

“A lot of times we're going through text messages and the occasional lunch that we may have,” Turner said. “We do try to eat lunch together on Friday before a game, but that doesn't always work with everybody or their schedules because everybody has full-time jobs.

“I think the school has been unbelievably supportive of us.”

Turner never complains. In fact, the smile never leaves his face.

He's on the football field, a place he has loved since he played at Deer Creek High School and Baylor University, where he walked on and eventually earned a scholarship during the 1981-85 seasons.

Turner just wants to teach his players how to succeed in life, much like the football program is doing despite the odds.

“I think it's good for the kids because they grow up in this society where they feel like they've got to win everything and dominate everything,” he said. “You can't do that. That's not possible. Your failures are what develop your successes. If you never failed, you wouldn't have much success.

“But it's hard for them because we kind of live in this ESPN generation where everything is one glorious play. That's just not the way it is.

“If we can teach that lesson here, they can learn it for the classroom, going to college, they can learn it for their marriage and they can learn it with their kids.”

The players have already come along way with the coaches, overcoming many obstacles few programs face across the state.

“But it seems to work here,” Turner said. “It works.”

by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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