Staff Photo: Christine Troyke Rodney Born, a Brookwood grad, just finished his first full year as athletic director at South Gwinnett after many years of coaching at the Snellville school.
Rodney Born just finished his first full year as athletic director at South Gwinnett. A Brookwood grad, Born was also a coach and teacher at Meadowcreek before coming to South where he is now an assistant principal.
In this installement of "Getting to Know ...", Born talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including his familial connections to South Gwinnett, the transition from coach to AD and quality time with his family at the lake.
CT: You obviously like the Gwinnett area since you grew up here.
RB: I did. I graduated from Brookwood in '92. (Daily Post sports editor) Will (Hammock) and I actually graduated together. But I grew up in the South cluster. I went to Britt (Elementary) and Snellville Middle. My mom actually played basketball and ran track here at South back in the mid-'60s. So I'm connected to the school.
But yeah, I'm a product of Gwinnett and love the Gwinnett way.
CT: Where did you go to college?
RB: I got my undergrad at West Georgia. I finished there in '97 and then in 2004, I got my master's from Piedmont. In 2008, I got my leadership degree from Lincoln Memorial.
CT: When you're a high school kid at Brookwood, do you think of yourself one day becoming AD and assistant principal at South?
RB: No. When I was in high school, staying in high school for the rest of my life was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to get out. I enjoyed school. I didn't work as hard in the classroom as I should have, but I enjoyed it because of the athletics I was involved in.
When I went to college, I didn't know what I was going to do. But something at some point just kind of struck me. I was always raised with the mentality that you needed to give back and I'd had great coaches when I was in school at Brookwood. I had a great relationship with my track coach, Jerry Arnold. Still do.
I just wanted to try to do something in the same realm. I guess I was probably a sophomore in college when I decided that I wanted to go into teaching. I went into it to be a coach and then realized that I really enjoyed the teaching part a whole lot more than the coaching part.
CT: What did you teach?
RB: Social studies. I've taught pretty much every subject in social studies that I'm certified for, but primarily I taught U.S. and world history for about 13 years.
CT: What was your first job out of college?
RB: First official job? Or job just to get by? (laughing) My first official job in teaching was at St. Francis School in Roswell. I was a social studies teacher, assistant basketball coach and head track coach.
CT: What was the gap between finishing college and that job?
RB: I graduated in March and I did a little bit of substituting until the end of that school year. I had worked for probably the last two summers with my cousin who owned his own landscaping business. So I just immediately started working for him just to save money. I was saving for a wedding and some other stuff.
I worked for him even the following summer after my first year of teaching.
CT: Where did you go after St. Francis?
RB: I was there one year and then I went to Meadowcreek. I was at Meadowcreek for four years. I left Meadowcreek and went to Dacula -- for a total of three weeks. Then I was voluntarily displaced here to South Gwinnett. That year there were 11 or 12 teachers that were displaced from Dacula and I lived a mile and a half down the road. The social studies chair here at South was a guy who I had gone to school with his son and worked with him for a couple of years at Meadowcreek. So I gave him a call and said, hey, if you'd like to have me, I'd like to come over there.
He said sure.
CT: What year was that?
RB: That was the fall of 2002. And I've been here since. I've never wanted to leave.
CT: What did you do on the coaching side here at South?
RB: When I was at Meadowcreek, I coached football for three years and track. And softball for one year. Then when I came to South, the first two years was when I was working on my master's and I didn't coach anything. When I finished with my master's, I was ready to get back into coaching. I had an opportunity to work with coach T. McFerrin in his last year here. I coached football for a year with Coach T and then coached track for a couple of years as well.
When Coach T retired, for the second time at that point, and Coach (John) Small came on, as most coaches do, he brought in his complete staff. So I went back to coaching softball. The head softball coach here at the time was Ryan Queen. He had coached, before coming to South, with Mike Cason at Parkview. And I had coached at Meadowcreek with Mike Cason. So he and I knew of each other. I joined his staff and coached with him here for four years. I think of myself more of a softball coach than as anything else even though I've done a little bit of everything.CT: Would you ever take a job at Parkview?
RB: Um. That's kind of a loaded question.
CT: I only ask that because you went to Brookwood.
RB: Yeah, no. The rivalry between Brookwood and Parkview has always been there. People ask me all the time how can you be a Brookwood alumni and love South so much. But growing up in the South community, having my roots here, having my mom go here. I played all my rec league football in our stadium. I played all my rec league baseball in the South cluster. I played all my basketball in the old gym. I like to tell people that the land the school is built on actually used to be share-cropped by my great grandfather. I have some unique roots here.
At this point, I don't have any desire to go anywhere else. I think it would be fun to go to Brookwood at some point simply because I went there. But any change I made, and I don't plan on making one any time soon, would be to be on the same schedule with my own children in Walton County.
But I can see myself being here at South for the rest of my career without any question.
CT: When you started at South you were living very close to here. When did you move?
RB: My wife and I built a house just outside Between in Walton County in 2006.
CT: You do that knowing you're not talking about a three-minute drive to work anymore?
RB: In fact, it took me longer to walk from my parking space to my classroom than to drive from my house to the school those first few years.
We moved out to Walton County because, being a nature lover, there was too much traffic in Snellville. I've been here my whole life. I remember when 78 was four lanes without a turn lane in the middle. Just to see it grow, we wanted to get out where we had a little bit more land around us. A quiet, peaceful area. We still come into Snellville all the time, but it's not to have to listen to the traffic and not have neighbors right up on top of you.
CT: How many kids do you have?
RB: Two. My son, Keith, is 11 and my daughter Savannah is 6 -1/2.
CT: It sounds like you played a lot of sports growing up.
RB: I did. In high school, primarily I stuck with football and track. I wasn't a very good football player, looking back. But at the same time, I had great people that were ahead of me. I was (current Archer head football coach) Andy Dyer's backup. Andy was a great player in college and is a great coach. I was what you call a program player. You've got to have somebody to fill out defense.
Track was really my sport. Track was what I was able to shine on and make a significant contribution. I lettered all four years for Jerry. Of course, I look at the times I ran then, compared to the times kids are running now and I wouldn't even scratch a meet. But 20, 25 years ago, it was a little different.
CT: What were your best events?
RB: The 400 was my main event and I did all the relays.
Freshman and sophomore year, I ran the 100 more than the 400. I actually won county in the 100 as a ninth-grader. But as I got a little bit older, people got a little faster so I moved to the 400.
CT: How is the transition from coaching to being an AD?
RB: It's been an interesting year. The transition was easier than it could have been because I have great people that I work with. All my head coaches are outstanding in their own areas. They run outstanding programs and make it really easy for me to support them.
It's been a huge learning curve. I've asked a lot of questions. And there's still a lot of things I don't have a clue about. But if I don't know, I've built good relationships with a lot of the other athletic directors in the county. I don't mind picking up the phone and asking them.
My clerk, Dawn Belcastro, has really been a saving grace. Without her, I would have been completely lost. I would not be able to do this job without her. She's amazing.
CT: Is there a part of the job you like best?
RB: Honestly, just like when I was a coach, game nights. Seeing the kids perform and do well in their own area. That's the most rewarding part of it.Seeing our baseball team make it to the state playoffs and compete for the region title was great. Standing on the sidelines, watching our boys soccer team knock off Lassister, the No. 1 team in the state, was huge. That was a great, great game.
I've never really been a huge soccer fan, but watching our boys team play this season, I've learned more about the game and become more of a fan of it.
CT: What are your summers like? Short?
RB: They're a lot shorter than they used to be. I'm usually in the office at least one day a week. There's always something going on. But my wife and I and our kids love boating and camping. So we go to the lake every chance we get.
When I was growing up, my parents had a boat and a camper. Almost every weekend, if it wasn't baseball season, we were at the lake. My wife's parents were the same way. She grew up in Indiana, but they were boating and camping every weekend as well.
A lot of my favorite memories as a kid was spending that time with my parents. To have the ability to do the same thing with my own kids and hope they build the same time of memories.
CT: Do you have any favorite TV shows?
RB: I'm a "Deadliest Catch" junkie. I love "Duck Dynasty" but I don't get to watch it nearly as much as I'd like. "NCIS: Los Angeles" is probably my favorite show right now.
CT: What music is most often playing in your car?
RB: Almost exclusively country music. I play a little bit of '80s rock and roll.
CT: Has it always been this way?
RB: Pretty much.
CT: It's interesting how much country music has changed, especially since around when we graduated from high school.
RB: Country music now is a lot more like Southern rock from the early '70s.
The first concert I ever went to was the Oakridge Boys with my parents and I was in like fourth grade. Country music is considerably different now.
I'm fortunate that I have a couple of friends in the industry. So I have kind of an inside appreciation for it.
CT: Are those people you grew up with or ones you've met recently?
RB: One of them is Brian Kelley with Florida Georgia Line. I met those guys about 2 -1/2 years ago when they were first starting to tour. My wife and I met them and just hit it off. Now that they've just absolutely exploded in the last six months, I don't get to talk to them nearly as much as I used to, but they just filmed a music video for their new single that's coming out a few weeks ago in Monroe. Tyler (Hubbard), the lead singer, is from Monroe so they filmed half of the video in his hometown and half the video in Bryan's hometown. So we took the kids and went out to the video shoot.
The other guy, people around here will know him, but not in the industry yet. He's still working. It's a kid by the name of Jordan Rager. He is a former student of my wife's and his youngest brother and my son are really close friends. He's up and coming right now.
So 90 percent of the time, I'm playing either Florida Georgia Line or Jordan Rager.