Town Crier Sports Staff
Building a winning tradition is very important to Black Rock Head Baseball and Basketball Coach Jeff Womack. Womack, a Riverside graduate, is well on his way to achieving that goal after leading the Zebras to a conference baseball championship and a state tournament bid in his very first year at the helm. In the process, Womack was named 1A-3 Coach of the Year. The Lake City native was also chosen by his peers as a nominee to coach in the state All-Star game held annually at Baum Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Womack's Zebras captured the 1A-3 Conference and District Championships as well as taking home the Region 3 Tournament title, which bought a ticket to the State Baseball Tournament. The Zebras finished the season with a 17-7 record while topping the conference with a 7-1 mark.
"It was a great honor to be chosen as Coach of the Year in my first season," said Womack. "But the credit goes to my team and to all the people at Black Rock who helped me. Black Rock is a great place to start a coaching career. It is a small school so there is not a lot of pressure. I get to do exactly what I want to do with the program. I am very grateful for the confidence the administration has shown in me. Steve Morris, our principal, has been a big help. He is a former coach who understands my situation.
"Black Rock is a close-knit school and community where everyone knows everyone else, similar to Riverside. Everybody is friends and it is a real good working environment."
Womack feels fortunate to have landing a head coaching position in his first year out of college. "I feel blessed to have gotten a job right out of college," said Womack. "That is not usually the norm."
"We had a real good season in baseball. I was blessed with a lot of talent. It also helps that we have one of the top facilities in the state of Arkansas. I think it is one of the top baseball fields in the state in any classification. It is top notch. It is built just like a regular major league field."
"We didn't fare as well in basketball, but we had such a young team. I am really looking forward to the upcoming season. We have two all-conference players returning. We will be small but hopefully we will be able to shoot the three this year."
"We should have a very good junior high basketball team," Womack continued. "We have four starters back from a team that went 13-10 last season, and we had a real good summer team camp where we went 10-0. With our ninth grade class, I think we can really make some noise when they get to senior high. I want to get them on the same level year in and year out as Weiner and Armorel. Our conference will be getting tougher in 2008 with the addition of Turrell and Bay. We are looking forward to that."
Womack attended Hendrix College on a basketball scholarship for two years before sitting out for a year and a half working on the family farm. Womack transferred to Arkansas State University where he spent one semester in Agri-Business before deciding to switch to education as a major. "I wasn' t sure what I wanted to do at first. I thought about farming and then I decided I might want to be a doctor. That idea didn't last long. I found out quickly I wasn't smart enough for that," laughed Womack.
"I switched to Ag-Business because of my farming background, but when it came down to it, coaching was what was in my heart. I have been around sports all my life and decided that was what I wanted to do."
When asked about his biggest influences, Womack quickly mentioned his father, Rick Womack. "My dad has taught me everything I know about sports. I really appreciate everything he has done for me. I have learned so much by just watching him, because he knows so much about sports. He coached me, beginning when I was five years old, all the way through sixth grade. He taught me that if you are going to do something, you have to put your whole heart into it, and I have tried to apply that to my coaching style. The main thing he taught me was not to let the other team's best player beat you, if you can help it."
Womack gave credit to the late Wayne "Biscuits" Short who coached him in Little League. "When I was growing up you played baseball for "Biscuits" at Lake City. I learned a lot from him which has helped me a great deal."
Womack also mentioned his high school coach, Buster Campbell. "Coach Campbell had a big impact on me. I picked up things from his camps and from just playing for him.I also learned alot by just playing at Riverside. We were very successful."
Womack, a two-time All-Conference selection, played on teams that went 92-23 in his three year career that spanned from 1996-1998. Womack helped lead the Rebels to back-to-back conference championships in his junior and senior seasons as well as a district title. The Rebels also played in the state tournament Womack's senior season, where they lost in the quarter-finals to eventual State Champion Stephens.
"Growing up as a Rebel, you are expected to be the best on the floor, and that has been a big influence on me," said Womack. "That is what I am hoping to bring to Black Rock. Growing up I wanted to be like Len B. Nall and Derek Elder and have the success their teams had, which was to go to the state tournament. Riverside has such a strong tradition, and wherever I go, I want to have that type of success at those schools."
Womack also gave credit to coaches Jeral Hudspeth and John Deaton of Manila, whom he mentored under during his student teaching.
In addition to his coaching duties, Womack teaches health, physical education and driver's education at Black Rock. "I love what I am doing. I get a lot of freedom and I get to coach both junior and senior high. We have great facilities and an excellent student following."
Womack's favorite memory from his first year as a head coach was his team's Regional Tournament win over Armorel that propelled the Zebras to the state baseball tournament. "It was one of the most exciting games I have been a part of. We won 13-12 in extra innings and it got us to the state tournament, which is what everyone strives for."
Womack and his wife Miki, who reside in Portia, both love to travel and do anything outdoors. "We have a lot of the same interests," said Womack. "I love to duck hunt and go scuba diving to speer for fish. That is one of my big hobbies."
Womack's long-term goal is to coach at a higher level, but he wants to remain in the high school ranks. "I would like to stay in this area, although if the right job presented itself I would definitely consider it. Right now, I am very happy to be at Black Rock and plan on being there for a long time," concluded Womack.