Hiawatha Hickman is new WOS Athletic Director
Last updated 6/21/2022 at 2:59pm
A new era in West Orange-Stark Mustang football begins this year with Hiawatha Hickman as the athletic director and head football coach. West Orange-Stark has the highest winning percentage in Texas high school football, and Coach Hickman looks to continue the tradition and improve it.
Hickman, age 46, grew up in Silsbee where he played and coached football for the Tigers against the Mustangs during three decades. He replaces Cornel Thompson who stepped down as the athletic director and head football coach at the end of last year.
Upon his graduation from Silsbee High School Hickman attended McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. He played in the defensive line at McMurry from 1994 to 1998 and was a two-time all-conference defensive tackle there.
After graduating from McMurry University Hickman returned to Silsbee where he served from 1999 to 2015 first as the defensive line coach before being elevated in 2006 to the defensive coordinator position for ten years.
In 2016 Hickman got the call from West Orange-Stark to come coach under then head coach Cornel Thompson. "I had known Coach Thompson for years coaching against him and playing against him. He said he tried to hire me when he was at Palestine, he tried to hire me here, so when the head coaching job at Silsbee did not go my way I decided to come over here and take the D-Line job with Coach Thompson," Hickman indicated.
The move to West Orange-Stark proved to be a learning experience. Coach Hickman explained, "You come to a place like this you can't help but learn from a guy like Coach Thompson. He taught me so much." Hickman also earned his Master's Degree after coming to West Orange-Stark.
The timing was great for Hickman and the Mustangs. Hickman reminded, "It just happened to be probably the best football group they've ever had here, and I was fortunate to come in and coach some really good defensive linemen, win a state championship, and play in another state championship game which was a great move, great for my career."
Cornel Thompson announced in December 2021 he would be retiring from his position as athletic director and head football coach for West Orange-Stark. The West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees then opened the position up for applicants, and Hickman applied.
Superintendent Dr. Rickie Harris announced Hickman as the lone finalist on January 20, 2022. The Board of Trustees approved Harris' recommendation of Hickman as the new athletic director at their meeting four days later.
Achieving the position of athletic director was a career goal for Hickman although at first he was not considering applying for the job. "I had built some collateral with people in the building, and the superintendent and my principal said you need to get in on this. I applied and it just kind of started going my way and when I looked up I was a finalist for the job," Hickman recalled.
Hickman's first reaction to being named the lone finalist by Superintendent Dr. Harris was ecstatic. "Then as I settled down a little bit I realized I'm fixing to take over the winningest football program in the state of Texas. But you know football is football. You've just got to keep doing what we're doing and try to take things a little bit forward. I'd be a fool to come in here and try to change this thing," Hickman admitted.
The timeline for Hickman to take on the role full-time shows he will transition from serving as assistant principal and coach at the high school through June 2022. Beginning July 1 Hickman will take on the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach position full-time for West Orange-Stark. Hickman will become the fourth Athletic Director/Head Football Coach in the 46-year history of the Mustangs.
The bottom line Hickman points to for continued success by the Mustangs in football are the players. Hickman stated, "My number one thought and this won't change ever is as long as these kids here in West Orange walk through these doors you're going to have a chance to win. People all over the state of Texas know that. It's my job to try to take this program forward."
Talent is never a problem for the Mustangs on the football field. Getting the kids motivated to play hard and their best is an assignment Hickman and his coaches will tackle this summer and into the new season. "We've kind of changed the way we work out, we hired a strength and conditioning coach, we're doing some different training. With these kids it's got to vary, not the same thing every day, and that's what we've done," Hickman pointed out.
West Orange-Stark got a new artificial turf last season for Leroy D. Breedlove Field at Dan R. Hooks Stadium which the kids love to play on. The synthetic turf allows for practice on the field even when it has rained with no concern of tearing the field up prior to actual games like when it was only grass.
Another motivating factor could be the new locker room started at the field house. The decades old dressing room has been completed gutted, and Hickman is being somewhat closed mouth on details but promises it will be state of the art when completed.
A fulltime academic instructor has been hired to help the kids and motivate them with their classes. Hickman added, "This should help the kids when it comes to qualifying for college and being eligible. When our kids leave here and go to the next level it should be a smooth transition."
The ultimate goal for Hickman and his coaches are to prepare their student athletes for the rest of their lives. "We've got the bodies, we've got the athletes, now let's just train them and get them where they need to be to go to the next level, and the ones that don't go to the next level we're going to train them and teach them how to be men, teach them how to be great fathers and how to be great people," Hickman promised.
Roughly 100 kids have come out for the first two weeks of summer workouts at West Orange-Stark and seem to be buying into the new workout program started by Coach Hickman. They work with weights in the outstanding Cornel Thompson Strength and Conditioning Center located in the field house which has artificial turf making football drills possible there as well.
For the first time in over a decade the West Orange-Stark Mustangs are performing 7-on-7 drills at Dan R. Hooks Stadium. Coach Hickman believes it will help develop new quarterbacks for the Mustangs in preparation for a more up tempo offense he plans to use this football season.
The position of athletic director means Hickman is in charge of all the athletics at West Orange-Stark and that includes the girls sports too. Hickman evaluated, "That's one of the things I've been challenged with around here. We've been good at football, and one of the things we've got to do is get everything else caught up. The junior high, the girls athletics we've got to get everything on the same plane as football."
Girls have come out for the summer workouts in their largest numbers since Hickman has been at West Orange-Stark. Thirty to thirty-five girls workout on the weights at eleven o'clock after the boys have completed their workouts, and have expressed to Hickman their excitement with the exercise program being used.
Hickman is reaching out to the middle school athletes to get them involved. He has hired new personnel to teach the kids, and he looks to upgrade the facilities on the campus.
The district passed a substantial bond issue a few years ago which has led to impressive renovations being done to all of the athletic facilities. The artificial turf was installed on the football field last year.
A much larger two-level press box is being built at the football stadium. There will be elevator access to the press box that will include special seating for the school board and what is being called the Mustang Club that will have catered food provided for club members. Hickman hopes the press box will be ready by September.
Shortages of certain construction material caused by the global pandemic have delayed the completion of construction of the new $16 million gym. The gym will be the home for Mustang boys basketball and girls volleyball and basketball to play their games.
Completion of the gym is relying on the delivery of the needed material including doors which are only produced by one company. The doors have been back ordered for eight months to finish the building hopefully by the end of September or in October.
The gym when completed can also be used for concerts, banquets, and future graduation ceremonies at the high school. Hickman envisions future basketball tournaments being hosted at the Mustang gym. "It's going to be second to none when it comes to basketball, concerts, and other events. We'll have the overhead screen and big scoreboard. The superintendent had a vision to do this at this place. The kids are excited about it, the community is excited about it," Hickman indicated.
The outlook for the Mustangs in football is continued success under Coach Hickman, his objective is to improve the entire athletic program at West Orange-Stark. "We're trying to grow the complete program, especially on the girls side," Hickman insisted.
Hickman feels West Orange-Stark will be strong again this season in football. "Our kids are buying in to what we're doing. Scheme wise offensively we're going to bring a little bit more tempo and try to speed it up a little bit. We've got a new system in where we're going to signal plays in with no huddle and do some things like that to bring some tempo. We've got speed, that's been one of our big motto of the spring and summer is to put pressure on people. We are the pressure," Hickman concluded.