Look good, play good: How Dallas-area football coaches use fashion to get edge on game day – The Dallas Morning News
Before South Oak Cliff topped Liberty Hill in last year’s Class 5A Division II state title game, the coaching staff already looked like champs.
Sure, they’d proven they had the intangibles to lead SOC into the Texas high school football promised land. But last December, SOC’s coaches walked away with more than just the first state title in program history. They had the honor of arguably being the most immaculately dressed coaching staff in football.
The theme was icy white.
Slick, white tracksuits. Clean, white sneakers. Puffy, white vests. Crisp, white pants and blazers. And no one forgot the gold accents. It was blinding in the best way possible.
The stylish garb didn’t end with the 2021 season.
SOC’s coaching staff has served looks all year long en route to the team’s appearance in the Class 5A Division II state semifinal match against Argyle on Friday night at Fort Worth’s Crowley ISD Stadium. One might call it dressing for success — and maybe that’s part of it. Though, it’s not everything.
“It’s a group effort … and we like to express ourselves in different ways than what’s traditionally been done,” said SOC head coach Jason Todd, who favors comfort and practicality. His grandmother scolded him as a child for not wanting to wear a suit to church.
Winning is the ultimate goal, but coaches are intentional about how they present on gameday.
At SOC, it’s about individuality and honoring the community’s culture.
Some coaches, like DeSoto’s Claude Mathis, have superstitions. Others, like Highland Park’s Randy Allen, pay homage to legendary coaches (In Allen’s case, famed Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry).
Many emphasize a solid shoe game. Most coaches — across high school, college and professional teams — simply want to represent their programs in the best possible way.
And if others mimic that flare, then that’s cool too.
“I realized that we really were like the trendsetters before Deion Sanders even started this stuff at the college level,” Todd said. “You see multiple teams wearing white now. I think it goes back to the dress of our kids. You know, we started the area code and the zip codes and things like that, that just honor the community.”
“And then next thing, DeSoto’s wearing it. You can look at it in other parts of different cities, and everybody’s trying to clone something that South Oak Cliff has done, but we are the trendsetters of it all.”
Todd said it’s SOC that has set the bar for coaching swag and players swag. The team has three different helmets and four or five different jerseys. Todd said they’re the Oregon of the south.
Funny, because Mathis, who is glued to his visor like no other coach in the D-FW area, said DeSoto, with its various uniforms and helmets, holds that distinction as “little Oregon.”
“They can’t be ‘little Oregon’ wearing Adidas,” Mathis said jokingly about SOC. “They’re Adidas, we’re Nike. That’s all you have to say right there. We’ve been called that ever since we’ve been with Nike.”
While Mathis said he doesn’t pay much attention to what SOC or other coaching staffs in the area wear, he does give rival Duncanville props. As for how his own team and staff present, the DeSoto coach cares a lot.
“I always say, you look good, you play good,” Mathis said.
Though Mathis has rocked a vest and sleeve combo for so long it’s become his trademark, he doesn’t take credit for popularizing the vest coaches like himself and Texas’ Steve Sarkisian sport. In fact, it was a college coach he saw on TV once that inspired him to embrace the style.
He adopted long sleeves to keep the sun off his skin. But it was Mathis who spread the gospel of the visor to DeSoto’s staff.
“The visor’s my signature. I’ve been wearing the visor since I started coaching,” Mathis said. “So now, everybody recognizes me with a visor and then my coaches started wearing them because I don’t really like wearing ball caps.”
On Saturday when DeSoto plays Denton Guyer in the 6A Division II state semifinal, game-day dress will go through Mathis via the staff group chat. The goal is for the staff to look coordinated and presentable, but that doesn’t mean Mathis won’t make a quick change if the game is feeling … off.
“I’ve changed at halftime,” Mathis said. “I did it one time this year. …I am (superstitious), especially with my shoes.”
Prosper head coach Brandon Schmidt, who will lead his team in a 6A Division I semifinal match against reigning 6A Division I state runner-up Duncanville on Saturday, dresses like most football coaches do. A polo with the team logo. Maybe a hat. Khaki pants. A coat or pullover with the team logo for when it gets cold.
But his sneakers certainly stand out. In Prosper’s 24-13 win over Lewisville last Saturday, Schmidt sported a pair of black, white, gray and green Nike Air Max with intricate stitching that forms the swoosh. He, however, can’t take credit for the spirited kicks representing Prosper’s school colors.
“My wife, she got me these shoes,” Schmidt said. “My wife takes care of me.”
Some coaches, like at SOC, are much more invested in their gameday presentation. Todd said his staff can also be superstitious And they love their sneakers. The tracksuit aficionado said one coach on his staff buys a new pair of sneakers every week. Another coach buys new jewelry.
“He’s probably got in trouble with his wife,” Todd said. “The fashionable guys on the staff, they try to stay fashionable. Then, we’ve got a bunch of cheapskates that are just like, ‘Man, I’m wearing what I wore three years ago.’ … And then I’m kind of stuck in the middle.”
While fashion definitely makes a statement and creates a sense of pride, Todd, and any coach who makes it this far in the playoffs, knows the real secret to success isn’t sporting the hottest trend or the garment that brings good luck.
“A lot of that stuff doesn’t determine whether you win or lose,” Todd said. ” If we’re wearing button-ups with a belt on, or we’re wearing warm-up suits, it’s still about the kids executing and us coaching and doing a good job.”
On Twitter: @t_myah
Find more high school sports coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.
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