Matt Henson is in his first season as Parkview's track and field coach after spending the last four seasons at Meadowcreek. Henson led the Panthers to the Gwinnett County championships in boys and girls track.
Matt Henson, 36, is in his first season as head track and field coach at Parkview High School. Henson spent the previous four years at Meadowcreek and coached three years at East Hall and five in the Charlotte area.
Henson graduated from Hayesville (N.C.) High School in 1992 and earned his bachelor's degree in English from Western Carolina in 1997. He and his wife Millicent have two children -- Chase, 14, and Riley, 9.
In this latest installment of "Getting to know ..." staff writer Brandon Brigman talks to Henson about winning the Gwinnett County championship, his insomnia and how he met his wife.
BB: Have you stopped celebrating winning the boys and girls county track and field championships yet?
MH: We're still very excited, the kids are very excited. Coaching-wise, we know we have to get ready at region and try and do something at state. We're very happy with what we did because people didn't think we were supposed to do it.
BB: I know it's like picking your favorite kid, but which one means more, the boys or girls title?
MH: Well, the boys is a three-peat. Somebody asked me the other day, 'Are you feeling the pressure?' Monday night during the 3,200 it started squeezing pretty tight in my chest. It basically came down to those two races. The boys title being a three-peat is massive and the girls wining the first once since 1999, they are probably equal in my opinion. It's hard to say.
BB: If we did a county meet with just the track coaches, who do you think would win? Let's say we did the 100, 800, shot put and long jump.
MT: Well, (laughs) if it has anything below driving a mile we're in trouble here. I think Coach (Bjorn) Thornton may get people in the hurdles, but we're not good at all. Coach (Richard) King and Coach (James) Tigue, I think they could hold their own. Coach (Andrew) Hudson might keep them off and (Tomy) Sitton might still run.
BB: When it comes to some events like pole vault and hurdles, how do you convince a kid to go 10 feet in the air on a pole or run full speed and jump something three and a half feet off the ground?
MH: The pole vault we leave up to Coach (Bobby) Robinette because he knows what he's looking for is a kid that has some upper body strength. Not the fastest kid in the world, but just a kid that's strong and wants to compete. A lot of times a pole vaulter is somebody that really doesn't do anything else. They are like kickers in football. Their personality is completely different than everything else in track. I don't think I would go up 12 feet in the air on a pole.
BB: Former head track coach Mark Whitley is now an assistant. He's also the athletic director. Is it weird being in charge of him?
MH: No, it's kind of an inside joke because I ask him, "What hat are you wearing today? I need to know how to talk to you and make sure I don't say anything wrong and get fired." He had the program in great shape and all I've come in and done is a little bit different mark with it to improve what they were doing. He and I have a really good relationship.
BB: How do you improve on last year's state championship with the boys team?
MH: Uh, you win another one. (Laughs) I didn't say we're going to win another one, but that's the best way to improve on one, is to win it again. Ask (Collins Hill's) Andrew Hudson. I mean they know how to do it over there.
BB: You also coach football. Which is tougher, doing football or track?
MH: I love both of them, but it depends on what time of year it is. We're getting ready for spring football and we just went through some preseason meetings with the football staff, so I've been doing a little bit of double duty. My staff is so large, if I have to be gone for 30 minutes or something like that it's not a problem.
BB: You teach language arts at Parkview. What's your favorite book you have your students read?
MH: My favorite book to teach seniors is "Frankenstein." Just because it's cool for them to be able to see the difference between someone who looks like a monster and someone who is a monster inside. The kids really get into that.
BB: Now I've gotten some e-mails from you pretty late at night. Do you ever sleep?
MH: Yeah, I sleep before church on Sunday, not during church. I sleep, but I'm one of those people that doesn't sleep a lot.
BB: So how many hours a week?
MH: I average about four a night. It depends. Since I live in Buford, I've spent the night here (at school) before some of our bigger track meets just so I didn't have to get up. I knew if I went home, I would just watch something on the TiVo and then look at the clock and it would be time to leave.
BB: What are you doing up so late?
MH: I either read or I'm working on the Web site or scheming.
BB: What's your favorite TV show right now?
MH: "Lost." Absolutely.
BB: Are they ever going to get off that island?
MH: Evidently. They've been off once, let's hope they get off again.
BB: What did you do to celebrate your birthday last month?
MH: We won the Cobb track meet in Woodstock and my wife had a good friend of mine pick me up at the meet. I was supposed to not know where I was going, but I knew it had something to do with Atlanta. They took me the Georgian Terrace, my wife had rented several rooms for our friends and we went out to the Virginia Highlands, had dinner and a good time.
BB: You've been married to your wife Millicent for 15 years. How did you meet?
MH: It was cool how I met her. I met her at the YMCA on Scenic Highway. I was working some sports camps between college during the summer. She was sitting there in an office. I walked by the office, saw her red hair and when I walked by I thought 'Wow, I have to talk to that girl.' I stepped back and spoke to her and it's been history ever since.
BB: Do you still remember your first date?
MH: Yes I do. I was so nervous when I went to pay for dinner at Applebee's I never signed the slip for dinner. I never used a credit card before, but I had one. I thought I was big stuff sliding that credit card. I remember to this day not being able to use it.
BB: What made you want to get into teaching and coaching?
MH: I always wanted to do both, but I thought I would be a basketball coach. Because growing up I played everything and I loved basketball, but I'm a loud person and basketball is not a good place for me. Because you're in a confined area and you're wearing a buttoned shirt and that's not good for me.
BB: It's your first year at Parkview, but how long do you see yourself here?
MH: I could retire here. I hope they give me the chance to. The community support here, and this is going to sound cliche, is second to none. It's unbelievable. The parents, the people that have had kids come through, the people that don't have children, they really rally around the school. The staff is outstanding and Coach Whitley is great to work for, Mr. (David) Smith is good, Cecil Flowe. I mean I couldn't work for a better football coach. This is as good for your resume as anyone could want if they were looking for another job, but I'm not looking.