Interview Part 1: Bill Courtney

Date of publishing: 6th August 2016

*Memphis Business Journal’s Small Business of the Year Award*

*Football Coach at Manassas High School, a story that inspired a Hollywood film—Undefeated—which won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.*

Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?

William B. Courtney (Bill), a native Memphian (Tennessee, United States), founded Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. in 2001. Today, it employs 120 people with a 45 acre manufacturing facility and domestic sales offices in Memphis, TN and international sales offices in Shanghai, China and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In 2007, Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. won the Memphis Business Journal’s Small Business of the Year Award based on its growth and commitment to community service.

In 2003, Bill began volunteering at Memphis’ inner city Manassas High School in an effort to turn its underperforming football team around. In 2003, the team had 19 players with a dismal 4-95, 10-year record. In the 2008 & 2009 seasons, the team’s record improved to 18-2, with 75 players. The story inspired a Hollywood film—Undefeated—which won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.

Today, Bill still operates as the President and CEO of Classic American Hardwoods. He speaks at a variety of events from the Para Olympics in Colorado Springs, with Nike, PepsiCo, FedEx, and other nationally recognized companies, to churches, schools, and hospitals. His first book, Against the Grain, was published by Weinstein Books in May 2014, and will be sold in paperback October 2015.

Bio: Copyright:

How would you define a parent’s role within the youth sports environments?

Parent’s roles are to encourage and support not only their children, but all the kids in competition. The greater lessons of competitive team athletics are character, teamwork, sportsmanship, hard work, preparation and selflessness. The value in participating in these sports is that regardless of one’s wins or losses on the field, the lessons learned serve the athlete long after the competition ends. A parent’s role is to help foster these lessons by acting civilly and supportively to ALL the children involved. Parents are to help with transportation, half-time needs, pre and post-game needs, cheer during the games and to reinforce at home the value that a young athlete should be learning on the field, from coaches, at practice and during games.

See trailer here > Undefeated

What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?

Properly run youth organizations encourage parental involvement in the areas such as: trust, knowledge and information provided to athletes pre and post game. But they also draw no blurry lines about the unacceptable as well. As coaches and league administrators, it should be evident that without parental involvement, there are no sports for kids. Parents pay the fees, buy the gear, provide the transportation, and then can perform many team ancillary duties that make for a well-run youth team and program. The relationship between coaches, administrators, and parents, thusly, should be cooperative and encouraging.  Having said this, it is also vital that the line between coach and parent is clear. Overzealous, even well intentioned parents, can be cancerous to youth team and programs and most starkly, often cause undue stress on the very people they often times think they are advocating for the most: their own children. Therefore, parents are to understand the line can’t be crossed and be held to that standard.

Book Bill
Available on Amazon

How have you as a coach/club attempted to increase parental involvement?

On my teams, I always encourage parental involvement and seek “TEAM MOMS” whose duties include: arraigning transportation for players who need it, daily and weekly e-mail updates and reminders about practices times, updates, scheduling etc.,  scheduling of post-game snacks and drinks, and any other administrative type duties that I as a coach need help with.

I also have a mandatory pre-season parental meeting. Players are not allowed in the meeting and no player will be allowed to participate unless at least one parent attends. In this meeting I explain that the focus of the season will be to assist in the character development and growth of the athlete(s). I set team expectations, explain the rules and policies for the team, and I lay out the rules, policies and expectations of the parents. This is all in writing and a hand-out with all of this information is provided to all attendees. At the meeting’s conclusion, each parent is to sign a copy and return to me that they have read, been explained verbally, and understand the goals of the team, the expectations by the team of the players and the parents, and what the players and parents can expect from the coaching staff.

This is not a dictator’s meeting, rather it is a friendly and exciting kick-off to what is expected to be a fun exciting time for all involved and to make sure everyone knows their roles and expectations on the front end to ensure a successful season for all involved.

You can find more about Bill on these social media outlets:


Twitter: @IamCoachBill

Instagram: @iamcoachbill

The Sporting Resource


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