Don Ford has always enjoyed working with kids.
The former Gatesville coach spent 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, providing tutelage for the Hornets and won a state championship ring as a football assistant in 2000.
Ford was the head track and field coach for Gatesville for seven of those years, winning four district titles. He then stepped away from coaching after the 2003-04 school year to pursue a master’s degree in psychology in order to become a counselor.
Ford also spent many of his 10 years as an assistant basketball coach, but the schedule became tiring. The three sports he coached overlapped with one another each year, and he wasn’t getting much of a break.
“I enjoyed all of the sports because they dealt with kids,” Ford said. “I was assistant varsity basketball coach until it just got to be too much. I was crossing over from football and we’d go on deep playoff runs, so I’d end up coaching football and basketball at the same time.
“Then we’d get to the playoffs in basketball and I ended up coaching basketball and track at the same time.”
Kiff Hardin, the athletic director and head football coach of the Hornets at the time, gave Ford the option to drop one of the sports, so he elected to stop coaching basketball in order to have some sort of break during the school year.
When Hardin elected to accept the position of head football coach at Rowlett just after Gatesville won the state football title in 2000, he offered Ford a job to become the running backs coach of the Eagles.
However, his good friend on the Hornets staff, Mike Morgan, was given the head coaching job at Gatesville. Ford ultimately elected to stay.
“After I interviewed up there in Rowlett, coach Morgan came to me and tried to sweeten the pot,” Ford joked. “This is home, so I just ended up staying here.”
Ford’s love of working with kids started in his younger years as the sports director of the YMCA in east Fort Worth, and it was an eye opener.
“I got a rude awakening of what gangs are really about,” Ford said. “I’m from the country, so I’d never been around any gangs. I got my first interaction with gangs there.”
In his two years in Fort Worth, Ford watched a kid get shot right in front of him. Luckily, the kid didn’t lose his life, but Ford wanted to do his part in helping kids avoid inner-city violence and keep them safe and out of harms way.
“I just come from a family that deals with kids and works with kids, and I still work with kids,” Ford said.
Ford continues to volunteer his time to help Elliot Kelley, current head track and field coach of the Hornets, but he also remains heavily involved in the community.
Six years ago, Ford helped start the Coalition of Community Awareness (CCA) in Gatesville in order to help integrate the African-American population with the community.
“We wanted to bring our African-American community together and do something positive,” Ford said. “That’s why we originally started, but we’ve expanded over the last three years where we give out awards during Black History Month, but it’s not exclusive.”
Awards given out are military, education, business, civil service, fine arts and humanitarian, among others. Any person can be nominated for an award — they just have to be a descendant from Gatesville.
A banquet is held each February, and it has grown so much that the CCA hosted over 100 people at the reception this past winter. The nonprofit organization’s expansion also allowed it to hand out its first scholarship in February, as well, to Hornets volleyball player Rosie Lee.
On Friday, the CCA will host a dinner and invite all of the kids who wrote essays for the scholarship and provide them with a gift card before they head off to college.
While the organization began as an outreach to the African-American community, Ford said the idea was to expand and promote inclusion.
“We want to be inclusive,” Ford said. “The idea behind the CCA was to get the African-American population more involved with the community and promote diversity. Our next goal is to do the same with the schools.
“I feel all kids need to see people at the schools from all walks of life. We want to work as a nonprofit organization to be inclusive. We’re not counting out anybody, and we just want to do our part.”
The CCA will be hosting a fundraising softball tournament at the Gatesville baseball and softball fields on U.S. Highway 84 on July 29-30. Deadline for registration is July 27.
For more information about the tournament, Ford can be contacted at 254-223-9255, or contact Kent Ford at 254-338-4534.