PILOT MOUNTAIN — As a young up-and-coming assistant baseball coach, Chad Freeman had a few offers to leave East Surry for a head coaching gig.
Over his 14 years helping the legendary Barry Hall, Freeman did consider those jobs, but never applied for any of them.
Guided by his faith and his strong family, Freeman knew he was already in a good situation as a member of the Cardinal team, even if he is a Surry Central alum.
He never questioned his decision to stay at East Surry for so many years. He learned from the best and made two trips to the state championship series. And now he has taken over the head coaching job with Hall’s retirement.
“I very quickly fell in love with the school and fell in love with the community,” Freeman said. “I didn’t explore the chances to leave and go get a head coaching job earlier, because I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
His journey with the Cardinals actually began thanks to his former rival (and future mentor). Coach Hall was familiar with Freeman from the young man’s days playing against East Surry while a member of the Golden Eagles. He pushed Freeman to do his student teaching at East Surry so he could help out with the baseball program, and Freeman has had quite an impact on East Surry athletics since then.
Aside from coaching baseball, Freeman was an assistant coach with the boys’ soccer team. He didn’t know much about soccer when he started, but jumped at the opportunity to help good friend and coach Bill Hart.
“I crash-coursed myself on soccer, and I fell in love with it,” Freeman said.
He held that position until there was a push to start a girls’ golf team at East Surry. Freeman started the program in 2010 and has been the head coach ever since.
Under his watch the Cardinal golf team has sent two players to the collegiate level on scholarship. He lost a lot of talent from his 2014 team, but Freeman is still excited to develop the program this year.
“I’ve always played golf and always loved it,” Freeman said. “I wouldn’t say my passion for it is greater than baseball, but when I step on the course I’m competitive, and we’re going to get better. It’s not something I do for giggles.”
Freeman graduated from Appalachian State in 2001 as a member of the Teaching Fellows Scholarship. He majored in history education while in Boone.
Freeman always knew he wanted to become a coach, but in college he decided to put baseball on the back burner and primarily focus on his studies. His passion for teaching is evident today, even with the rigors of coaching two sports.
“I’m a teacher first. A lot of people don’t think that,” Freeman said. “They think coaches are just babysitting in the classroom and their only focus is coaching, but I have never taken that approach.
“I want to be committed and have just as much success in the classroom as I have on the golf course or on the ball field.”
Freeman attributes all these successes as a coach and teacher to his wife, Sharon Freeman.
Chad and Sharon have known each other since the age of nine. Chad competed against Sharon’s older brother in little league and the two started dating when Chad was a junior in high school.
They’ve been together for nineteen years and married for thirteen. Together they have three boys: Derek (10), Carter (8), and Jackson (4).
The baseball coach admits he couldn’t devote the right amount of passion and time into his job if it weren’t for his wife.
“I couldn’t do what I do, as far as coaching, without having (Sharon) being as incredibly supporting as she’s been through the years,” Freeman said. “Making the commitment to be a coach, you have to invest so much time and energy into your program that it takes you away from the house.
“It’s a little easier now, but man, when we first started off and the kids were younger, she made a lot of sacrifices.”
Aside from the kids getting older, another reason that things are a bit easier for the Freemans is Sharon’s job as the secretary at East Surry High School. She started at this position eight years ago.
“Oh gosh, it is a godsend in the summers,” Chad Freeman said. “It is a godsend on snow days, and just in general we have the same work schedule.
“It has just worked out wonderfully.”
The two even get to eat lunch together.
There’s another factor Freeman relentlessly credits for his successes in life, and that is his faith. You can find him at Fairview United Methodist in Shoals on Sunday’s, and he carries his faith with him wherever he goes.
Freeman even hopes to spread this faith with the kids he sees on a daily basis. He helped start “Young Life,” a non-denominational ministry for teens, at East Surry High School.
“People that are volunteers, they’re called leaders, they just try to find kids wherever they are and share the gospel with them and spread the message of Jesus Christ,” Freeman said. “And you try to do it in a way that’s relatable to teenage kids.”
When he first returned to Surry County after college, “Young Life” only existed at Mount Airy High School. However, it is now slowly spreading its wings across the foothills and is active in North Surry, Surry Central and West Stokes as well.
Freeman and his wife were leaders until they became parents and some other responsibilities took over, but they are still very supportive of the organization.
One of the things Freeman most appreciated while being a leader was witnessing the friendships that kids developed across the rival high schools in Surry County.
“Mount Airy kids were hanging out with North Surry kids, hanging out with Surry Central kids, and especially if they participated in Young Life,” Freeman said. “It goes beyond the schools and any kind of competitiveness, it was pretty neat to see that transcend.”
The family man will still have plenty of competitiveness next spring in his first season as the head coach of the Cardinals’ baseball team. Coach Hall slowly started to prepare Freeman for this responsibility in recent years.
Freeman took over the summer program and the offseason workouts. This trust eventually led to the new coach helping call pitches and dictate how the coaches relay their signs to the players.
Despite his gradual rise to this position, a new challenge awaits Freeman in the next year. A lot of people ask him if he feels pressure as the successor to Coach Hall, but Freeman is ready continue the excellent baseball tradition at East Surry High School in his own way.
“There’s not going to be another Barry Hall, and I don’t have to be Barry Hall,” Freeman said. “I have to be the best Chad Freeman I can be. If I’m the best Chad Freeman I can be, and I put the effort into it that I know I’m capable of, and invest in the relationships with our kids, the success will take care of itself.”
Jackson Fuller is a sportswriter and can be reached at 415-4702.