Friday night, Monticello High School celebrated Homecoming. The Billies’ hopes were high, but White Hall proved too much for them this year, defeating MHS. However, the loss does not dampen the spirit of their coach. Behind a good football team is a great coach and person, Van Paschal.
Here is his story:
Van Paschal grew up in Brinkley, Arkansas. He was raised most of his life by his hard-working mother who was a shirt seamstress for Van Husen. He played football in Brinkley through the 7th-12th grades.
"I was a guard, linebacker, and defensive end. My mother always wanted to know why I wasn’t a quarterback. The kids always comment on how I can throw the ball. I tell them, ‘Yea, my momma said I should have been a quarterback, but coach said we needed a guard.’" (Hear this part of the interview here..)
After Coach Paschal graduated from high school, he was recruited by UCA to play football and by UAM to play baseball. He went to UCA in 1981. Soon after that, however, he tore his shoulder. He ended up at UAM to play baseball. After shoulder surgery and a couple of years playing baseball, he returned to football. He played for UAM his last one and a half years.
Paschal started out at UAM with a business degree. Everything changed when he took Business Math. He then started asking himself what exactly did he want to do with his life. He couldn’t stray far from football and decided to look into coaching. He then pursued a Physical Education degree. He loved the classes and excelled in them.
After graduating in 1985, Van realized he couldn’t find a teaching job in Arkansas without a teaching field. Most of the classes he took were business-related. The Arkansas schools wanted him to be able to teach science, history, and math. His high school coach suggested he try to coach in Texas where "football is king."
Van landed his first coaching job in Fort Worth, Texas, and the same year, he also married his hometown sweetheart, Lisa. The newlyweds didn’t stay in Texas long. Being newly-married and the long coaching hours made their time there tough. After one year in Texas, they came "running back" to Arkansas to be closer to family.
He coached in Marked Tree and Palestine for a short while. The Paschals ended up in their hometown of Brinkley. Van became the assistant football coach for two years and then head coach for 11 years. They had four children while there, and Lisa home-schooled. At that point, Van took a coaching job in Sheridan.
"That was not a very good move. I’ve found out since leaving Brinkley that coaching is 10% coaching, and the other 90% is the guys that can play. You’ve got to have players to win ball games," he said.
After one year in Sheridan, he coached in DeQueen for a couple of years. He left there to come to Monticello, where he has coached the Billies for the last two seasons.
"I think I have the greatest job there is. I’m still the little boy that goes and plays football everyday. And I get paid for it!" Van smiled.
When asked about his time in Monticello, Coach Paschal said, "Monticello has been a blessing. We have great facilities, good kids, and a lot of people involved. It is a good school." Being close to family and being near his Milo deer camp are extra benefits to being in Monticello, he added.
"God leads, directs our path. Everything just fell into place. I went to college here. We are east Arkansas folks, flat grounders. We like trees and the country life," Paschal offered.
When he first came to town and met the Monticello football team, he knew it was different.
"The black and white kids get along," he said. "They like each other, and that’s a pretty neat thing."
Coach Paschal and the team have worked hard on leadership. "Most of our kids are not natural-born leaders. They are mostly laid-back guys. But they like the game of football. They work hard, and they play hard," he observed.
Van sees them getting better each week. They continue to bond and become a unified team. They have great attitudes and want to improve, he sees.
When asked how the football players might describe their coach, he replied, "I don’t know what they would say. My nature is pretty hard-nosed. I have to watch myself and not get too focused, where I have blinders on and all I see is football. I try to widen back out and get these things in (points to his Bible on his desk). Kids come and talk to me, and all I want to talk about is blocking and tackling, when they really want to talk about life.
"I want them to say, ‘Man, that’s a godly man.’ They might say, ‘That’s a rough guy, but we know he loves Jesus.’ I want them to say I am a coach that cares about them and teaches them to never give up. Because when you leave football, you have the game of life.
Football teaches the game of life. When you get married, you may want to give up on your marriage. Don’t give up on your marriage. You may want to give up on your kids or vice versa, but don’t give up on them. You may want to give up or just run away. You can’t do that. You gotta keep fighting!"
Coaching has been Van Paschal’s life. Few people love to win as much or hate to lose as much as Coach Paschal. Winning or losing, he is a great coach in the game of football, and a great man in the game of life. Monticello is fortunate to have Coach Van Paschal – one Monticello life.