There are no excuses with Fort Worth Carter-Riverside football coach Jim Jefferies. There never has been.
In a traditionally disadvantaged community just northeast of downtown Fort Worth, where 86 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, it’s easy to find reasons why dreams of a college education are a long shot.
Still, there are no excuses in Jefferies’ mind.
For every cop-out a student could raise, Jefferies points to two of his assistant coaches and teachers at Carter-Riverside: David Lara and Forrest Hinshaw.
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Both were student-athletes who returned to their neighborhood after earning bachelor’s degrees hoping to continue the growth of a community.
“They are good kids,” Jefferies said. “They went through college and a lot of times we have hardships with our kids and their families, but those are good examples of kids here.
“They can’t make excuses now because those guys went and got a four-year degree in college and are now teaching in the school.”
Lara, Class of 2003, is entering his eighth year on the Eagles’ coaching staff and his fourth as defensive coordinator. He also teaches health and P.E.
He looks back to his time in high school and knows that coaching at Carter-Riverside goes well beyond wins and losses. He can only remember notching one victory in his four years as an Eagles tight end and defensive end.
In the past six years, the Eagles are 16-34 and 11-24 in district play.
The program has been successful, by other standards.
“During that time, I’ve gotten closer to [kids] and I’ve explained to them exactly what they need to do and what is expected of them,” Lara said. “I’ve seen them adjust and I’ve seen them flourish. That’s why I know I’m at the right place and I enjoy what I do.
“I’ve seen some kids that are going down the exact road that I was on. It wasn’t a bad road, but I was uninformed because my family didn’t go to college.”
That’s exactly where Hinshaw, Class of 2005, has found his niche, coordinating the AVID program at the high school. AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is an organization that trains educators to teach their students proven methodologies to help develop better critical thinking, literacy and math skills to prepare students for higher education.
Hinshaw has also been a coach with the Carter-Riverside soccer team for four years and is entering his first full season as an assistant football coach.
Through some of the examples these students now have, he sees a noticeable difference in the overall attitude of the school.
The days of playing dumb to be cool are long gone, he said. Now, the competition to earn a scholarship to a large state or private school is fierce.
“I think that’s been just a full group effort of the district, but specifically of the leadership we’ve had here at this campus with all the growing pains the neighborhood has gone through,” Hinshaw said.
“Maybe we’ve contributed to that a little bit,” he continued after a pause and a smile.
On the athletic fields, Carter-Riverside’s athletes have the same level of devotion from the two.
Hinshaw never played football in high school, despite playing almost every other sport the school offered.
Now, he devotes a large portion of his free time to reading, watching videos and talking to other coaches to make up for not playing the sport competitively.
“He worked hard in the classroom and he works hard on the field,” Jefferies said. “He learns as much as possible by going to camps and training for football and different types of clinics. He’s one of those kind of guys that, he will never, ever, ever stop learning.”
To Hinshaw’s amazement, Lara finds time between coaching multiple sports, teaching and spending time with his family to raise thousands of dollars for the school’s athletic programs.
“We may not be the best team, but we’re going to look good,” Hinshaw said. “He makes sure we’re not going to look like a poor inner-city school.”
Ultimately, athletics and school aside, the most important part of their job is being that voice that tells these students that they can achieve their dream.
There are no excuses.
“All they need is somebody,” Hinshaw said. “One somebody can just make such an impact. It’s nice to be able to be that person or to help them find that person, even it’s not you.”