Woods taking over

Published 12:11 am Friday, January 27, 2012

Rod guajardo | The Natchez Democrat — Head coach Willie Woods instructs the Natchez High School girls’ basketball team at their practice Thursday afternoon. Woods, who is the head coach for the Robert Lewis Middle School girls’ basketball team, will finish out the season as the head coach for the Lady Bulldogs.

NATCHEZ — Willie Woods recently wrapped up another successful season as the head girls’ basketball coach at Robert Lewis Middle School.

Woods led RLMS to a 17-1 record and a conference championship this season, but he had little time to sit back and enjoy his team’s accomplishments before taking up the task of coaching another group of Lady Bulldogs.

Woods accepted the role of interim head coach for the Natchez High School girls’ basketball team two weeks ago, and in that time has led the Lady Bulldogs to a 2-3 record.

“It’s hard to take over a group that has been taught a certain way,” Woods said. “I just try to stay with them. It’s hard to make changes now because the season is just about over.”

Woods said it is easier for him to adjust to the team’s established style of play than it would be for him to make the team change this deep into the season.

“I just have to do the best I can with what we have. I have to work hard to adjust,” he said. “It’s not hard, because it’s not something I’ve never done before. It’s no big deal to me because I can adjust. It’s not a tough transition. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Woods took over the team for former head coach Sue Johnson prior to its 66-52 loss to Lanier High School. Johnson is not currently coaching the team due to unspecified reasons, and Natchez High School has not commented on Johnson’s status or given a reason for her absence. Natchez High School athletic director Fred Butcher was not available for comment Thursday.

Woods said he has not been informed about Johnson’s status as well.

“They asked me to take this (job) and finish out the season,” Woods said.

Woods has been coaching at RLMS for approximately 13 years he said, but he does have prior experience at the varsity level.

He was an assistant girls’ coach at Ferriday High School and also had varsity coaching jobs in Georgia and Waterproof, La., he said.

Woods said although he has not had the opportunity to work with the varsity girls long, there are some aspects of his style of play that he would like to implement.

“(At RLMS) we really like to play more press defense,” he said. “We’re in better condition.”

Woods said having coached some of the varsity girls when they were in middle school helps with the adjustment, but it has been a long time since he worked with most of the players.

“A lot of them have grown up,” he said. “It’s changed. There is familiarity still, but it’s changed. I haven’t seen many of them in a few years.”

Woods said he is working on getting the varsity players to adjust to a faster tempo.

“You have to understand that it’s hard when you have not been running a lot,” he said.

Woods said he hopes to improve NHS’s defense in the coming weeks and also hopes that the Lady Bulldogs will start to convert on a few more of their easy scoring opportunities.

“We have to make free throws and layups,” he said. “We lost to Vicksburg (Tuesday), and there is no way we should have lost. But, if you miss layups and free throws, there is no way you can win the game.”

Woods said his aspirations are high for the rest of the season despite some of the difficulties associated with the team having an interim coach.

“I want to win the rest of our games and make noise in the playoffs,” he said.

In addition to coaching the girls’ varsity team, Woods also teaches health and physical education at Morgantown Elementary, he said.