When Terry Shaw took over the football team at Class 2B Rainier High School in 2013, he knew there was no magical fix to turn the program’s fortunes around. So he focused on small things.
Making sure his players showed up to class, on time, every single day. Picking up after themselves in the lunchroom. Taking care of their equipment. Treating each other with respect.
“At Rainier, at first, it was difficult for some of the kids to take that,” Shaw said. “Once they figured out it was going to lead to something special, it wasn’t difficult to get them to buy in.”
The Mountaineers eventually became a contender in the Class 2B Central League, as well. Their best season was 2017 when Rainier went 7-3 and made the state tournament for the first time since 1991.
Now Shaw has a similar challenge at North Thurston; he was named the school’s head coach, replacing William Garrow, who coached the Rams the past three seasons.
North Thurston finished last place in the Class 3A South Sound Conference last season, finishing with a 2-7 overall record and an 0-7 mark in league play.
“The program has kind of fallen on hard times the last several years,” Shaw said. “It’s similar to Rainier when I took over there. Rainier had fallen on hard times and was in a place where they needed a culture shift and something to change and turn it around. That, for me, felt like familiar territory.”
Shaw, 41, also knows the district well, as he’s been a choir teacher at Timberline High School since 2001. He also teaches weight training at Timberline High.
When Shaw took over the choir program at Timberline, there were two choirs with around 35 kids. Now, the school has five choirs with around 160 students.
“People always think the combination of choir and football is really odd,” Shaw said. “But the concepts are very similar. It’s a group of people, there are subgroups within that larger group, and we’re all trying to reach that common goal.
“For choir, it’s making music together. In football, it’s getting these kids to be at their best when we get to game time. So whether it’s a game or a concert, it’s a very similar process, as far as how we get to those things.”
Shaw’s ability to spark change and turn things around made him an ideal candidate in the eyes of North Thurston athletic director Eddie Gentry.
“After spending some time with Coach Shaw, it’s evident that his positive energy, attention to detail and his overall commitment to our community will make him an excellent addition to NTHS athletics,” Gentry said. “He comes to us from Rainer where he’s spent the last six years building an outstanding program that has produced state playoff caliber teams on an annual basis.”
On the field, Shaw will be bringing the triple-option offense to North Thurston, which is somewhat unique in today’s age of spread, read-option offenses. Shaw will be the team’s offensive coordinator and play caller, while co-coordinators Calvin Hicks and Stuart Desrochers will be in charge of the defense.
Shaw, who also worked as an assistant coach at Timberline (2001-07), Northwest Christian (2008-10) and Olympia (2011-12), didn’t run the triple-option until he started coaching at Rainier. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t his first choice.
“I asked the athletic director there at the time, ‘What do we have down here in terms of talent?’” Shaw recalled.
The response: Quite honestly, not much.
“So I started thinking, what’s going to give us the best chance to succeed?” Shaw said. “I’ve coached high school football long enough to know really good QBs are hard to come by. ... If you put some athletes into the triple option, then you’re really flowing. It’s a fun offense to coach. It can be very difficult to stop, when it’s run correctly.”
Turning a high school football program around is already a challenge, but Shaw will be tasked with making the Rams a contender in what was one of the state’s best leagues last season. Three teams from the SSC (Timberline, Peninsula and Yelm) reached the state tournament quarterfinals.
“You want to be one of the best teams in the state, and to get there, you play in a league that has a bunch of really good teams in it,” Shaw said. “In the end, you’re battled tested, and that’s what you want for your players.”
While Shaw recognizes turning the program around may take some time, he’s eager to get started.
“We’re going to have a team that doesn’t quit,” Shaw said. “A team that plays hard, and a team that is going to get better as the season goes on. … As a coach, I want to see these kids grow and and realize their potential.”