SPANISH FORK — Spanish Fork is a baseball town, and has been for a long time. With six state championships since 1987, it’s easy to see why.
Kirk Chambers is on the verge of turning Spanish Fork into a two-sport town, however. In just his first season as Spanish Fork’s head football coach, Chambers has guided the Dons to their first title-game appearance in school history.
Not bad for someone with zero years of previous coaching experience.
What Chambers did have was an impressive playing resume that included a collegiate career at Stanford and a seven-year NFL career. Throughout his various stops, Chambers observed the coaching styles around him.
“I’ve been around successful programs, and I’ve been around programs that aren’t as successful, and I’ve been observant and know the difference,” said Chambers. “High school is a game of momentum and it’s a game of energy, and energy brings momentum. So we always try and make sure the kids enjoy themselves out there so they bring that energy to the game.”
With 12 victories thus far, including playoff wins against Pine View, Morgan and Desert Hills, the results speak for themselves.
With one more victory against Dixie this Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the 3A championship game, Spanish Fork will officially be a two-sport town. If it happens, Spanish Fork’s baseball coach can take a sliver of credit for helping groom the football team’s rookie coach.
“Shoe (Nelson) is one of my great friends at the school and we share a classroom. He’s been my mentor and I really do go to Shoe quite often with a lot of questions about how he would approach coaching,” said Chambers.
Unlike most of the 21 other first-team head coaches in Utah this season, Chambers definitely walked into a great situation. Not only were the Dons a semifinal team a year ago, but several of those starters were back along with some quality assistants.
Despite that, assistant coach Mike Norris said Chambers has definitely made his mark on the program.
“It’s been more of a business-like attitude, and more of just an attitude per say of what’s expected of kids,” said Norris.
“There’s a lot of players that have played at a high level that aren’t good coaches. The thing about coach Chambers, he’s able to relate to the kids and he’s able to relate the stuff he’s learned playing at Stanford and playing at the NFL to their level. I think kids rise to your expectations and he’s expected it from the beginning.”
As much as he’s expected hard work from his players, Chambers has expected them to enjoy the ride too. Even throughout a frigid practice at American Leadership Academy earlier this week because Spanish Fork’s field was blanketed with snow, Chambers tried to keep the mood light. His players no doubt appreciated the shorter practice too.
There’s no denying the impact Chambers has had on Spanish Fork’s program this year, but he’s quick to deflect praise to his seniors, seven of which were contributors on Spanish Fork’s baseball team last spring.
“We have a great group of seniors who lead from the front and I almost stay out of their way,” said Chambers. “Those seniors are driving, driving and driving this team. I give them all the credit. They’ve already left a great legacy to be followed for this school, and they got to this game. But to actually win it would be that extra special.”
If those seven seniors — Braxton Argyle, Cortlen Nielsen, Cameron Money, Colton Olsen, Gus Snell, Logan Jensen and Cooper Beck — take care of business this Friday and then again next spring in the baseball season, they will forever be legends at Spanish Fork High School.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company