Coaching runs in the family: Zach Giddens is carving out his own coaching legacy with the Cavaliers

Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 16, 2023

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What does it take to be a good football coach? Leadership? Patience? Understanding? How about all three wrapped into the same package. In the Giddens family, these characteristics are passed down from generation to generation. 

Fortunately, the Giddens have blessed Troup County with their football experience and knowhow.

“Football is big here, we have three really good football programs,” Claude Giddens said. “We have three really talented football programs with good coaching, good school support and good community involvement. 

“I feel like people care about football in this area. And it’s a pretty big deal, you know.”

Football is hard wired into the DNA of both father Claude and son Zach. Claude has been on the block as a coach, serving at all three public high schools in Troup County at some point or another. But his legacy lives strongest at Callaway High, where he served as head coach from 2002-2004.

Claude was just the second head coach in the history of Callaway High and helped establish the program. Claude brought current head coach Pete Wiggins to Callaway and the rest is history.

“I think the whole school that I’ve noticed, since I’ve been watching them since 2020, when Zach came, it’s just a real big family like they have and I’m proud that I was a small part of it,” Claude said.

One might even say Zach coaching at Callaway is just fate.

“My mom found this drawing from 2002 when I was seven of me being a coach in the future,” Zach said. “The funny thing is, he’s dressed in a Cavalier uniform.”

Before arriving at Callaway in 2020, Zach was an assistant coach at East Coweta. Callaway was the first time Zach ran an offense as a coordinator, a big step up.

It was an instant impact for Zach, who replaced legendary offensive coordinator Matt Napier. In just his first year in charge of the offense, Callaway won the first state title, not just in program history, but the fist state title regardless of sport for the Cavaliers.         

“It’s kind of hard to put into words what an experience and opportunity that was, you know, I was able to get hired in 2020 and Callaway was already really established with Coach Wiggins and the standard that he has,” Zach said. “It helps being surrounded by those good coaches. So I stepped into a really good situation.”

Claude has always looked on his son with pride, but seeing Zach in the black and red barking out offensive plays as a coach brings tears to his eyes.

“Well, this is much more fun watching him as a coach than a player,” Claude said with a chuckle/ “It was a little more gut wrenching on game night with him playing.”

When Claude sees Zach coach he thinks back to all those times that his young son would join him in the film room. Zach was attached at the hip to Claude growing up and learned so much about the game from his father.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it meant to grow up into [coaching] and they don’t see the behind the scenes picture and the amount of hours that I spent going with him to games scouting and the time he spent with me. They don’t see the amount of hours that I spent from the time I was six or seven till the time I graduated just out there on the field with them or in the film room,” Zach said, fighting back tears. “Talking about it on Saturday mornings, throughout the nights, there’s just a lot of times and moments that people will never know about, but I know about it, my dad knows about it and how special those memories and moments are for both of us.” 

Zach watched and learned from his father, but he is carving out his own legacy on the sidelines.

“We talk a lot, but it’s not like we’re talking about X’s and O’s,” Claude said. “He’s his own man. And, I mean, now he’ll come if there’s something going on, and say, you know, just use my experience and the world talk. But we, I mean, like, I watched him and he lets me watch film, but it’s not like I call him up.”

Claude has made an impact far and wide during his decades of coaching experience in Troup County, but the biggest impact he made as coach was at home.

“There’s a lot of times that I wish that I coached more like my dad and that’s something that I strive to do,” Zach said. “That’s just my respect for him as a coach and a person.”