Chad Menard and his family have been made to feel welcome in their new home after the former longtime DeRidder High School head baseball coach was hired as the new head baseball coach at New Iberia Senior High School over the summer.
Menard, a Eunice native and McNeese State graduate, said the community support has been tremendous in his short time in New Iberia.
“I couldn’t ask for a better community to live in,” Menard said this week as the Yellow Jackets prepared for the weekend’s Iberia Parish Jamboree and the season opener Monday at Iowa. “South Louisiana is where I grew up and I’m glad to be back. The way I look at it is like I can have a conversation with somebody about boudin and cracklin’ and ponce and they know what I’m talking about. They don’t look at me crooked.”
Support from the school’s administration and parents also has been exceptional, he said.
“We’re all pulling in the same direction,” Menard said. “We just want to be great ambassadors for NISH. We want these young men to grow and become great members of society. It’s been nothing but positive.
“The people have been exceptional, welcoming. Anybody I meet (has) a handshake and a smile. From the community, the sponsors we have, the donations, everybody’s been about helping.”
The challenge of coaching in not only the highest classification in the state but also the best district in that class, and one of the top districts nationwide, appealed Menard, he said.
“It’s arguably the best district in the state and there was a MaxPreps article recently, maybe the last two or three years, that ranked the baseball district as one of the top in the whole country. It was like five or six, one of the top 10 in the country,” Menard said. “I’ve always loved a challenge, and I think New Iberia has so many positives to offer and tap into. It became available and I looked into it and it was just too good to pass up.”
And though NISH has advanced to the second round of the playoffs only once in more than a decade, getting a first-round win in 2017, he’s also familiar with the school’s rich baseball history that includes four state championships and a state runner-up finish.
To get back to that winning tradition, Menard said the coaches are working to create a winning culture.
“It’s a process,” Menard said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you win a district championship, it’s because you won every practice before that district championship came about or that state championship came about.”
A lot of great teams and coaches haven’t won championships, but Menard said he values what kinds of young men the program develops as much as wins.
“What kind of husbands and fathers they are, and what kind of members of the community they are, if they give back (to the community),” he said. “To me, five and 10 years from now is how we can gauge how well we’ve really done, when those guys come back and we see their young ones come around and we see them coaching the local Little Leagues, and that’s really what it’s all about.”
One thing that’s already impressed him is the quality of character his players have displayed.
“The team is a fine group of young men that give excellent effort every day, which is what a coach desires,” Menard said.“I can’t ask more of them. They’ve bought into the system we’re implementing. They’re giving it their all. They’re soaking up information, and they’re enjoying the game of baseball, which is why the game was created, I think, was to play and have fun.”
The coaches have preached about minimizing mistakes, he said, and he’s pleased with how the players have worked at that.
“The best team doesn’t always win, it’s the team that plays best,” he said. “We want to make sure we value 90 feet, we value throwing strikes, and there’s 21 outs in the game — if we can steal an out here or there on the bases with them, and just take advantage of 90 feet they give us, and just take care of all the little things, just being great at that.”
The players are like sponges, soaking up so much of the information they’re being introduced to, the coach said, which is invigorating for him in a new place.
“We’re going to measure success (with) more than just wins and losses,” Menard said. “Wins take care of themselves if you take care of the little things, and I think we’re winning every day, with effort — the things we can control; with just playing hard and being a great teammate, buying into one another and loving on each other. All those things come together and create a little synergy and it’s going to help us to win those things.”