Cartersville High head football coach Joey King says it to motivate his team just about every day.
“Either you're growing…” and the players respond, "or you're decaying.”
He went through the routine one more time with the team Thursday morning before informing his players he was leaving Cartersville High for a job as a receivers coach at Coastal Carolina University.
"It's [hard]. And that’s the hard part, is the relationships,” a choked-up King said after addressing the team. “I always say, 'Either you’re growing or you’re decaying.' It’s an opportunity for me to grow, and it’s about an opportunity for my family.”
King said he has recommended to the school’s administration that current defensive coordinator and Cartersville alumnus Conor Foster be promoted to head coach.
CHS Athletic Director Darrell Demastus, who was in Thomasville attending a Georgia High School Association meeting Thursday morning, said that as of King’s announcement, the school had not yet discussed the open position.
"We have not discussed that because of me being down here today,” Demastus said. "I’m sure I’ll get with [Principal] Shelley [Tierce]. The admin team will get together and discuss what the next step is. We just don’t know what the next step is yet."
A press release from the school stated a plan to outline the next steps for the football program will be released in “the next couple of days."
King leaves the Cartersville program after five seasons, overseeing the best run of football success in school history. He compiled a 67-4 record with state championships in 2015 and 2016. Cartersville won its region championship in all five seasons he was at the helm and reached the state semifinals four times.
He reached 50 wins faster than any coach in Georgia high school football history and leaves the high school ranks with the best win percentage of any high school coach in the state’s history with more than 25 games coached.
King replaced longtime Cartersville head coach Frank Barden in 2014 after having served as the offensive coordinator at Carrollton High School.
"I think Coach King came in when it was hard. I think he brought new life to the program. He generated excitement. He put Cartersville football back to where it had been in previous years,” Demastus said of King. "I think what he did, he ignited the fire back with his coaching style, with his personality. The community loved him and his wife. We loved his family. He came in and just took these boys under his wing and just loved them and coached them. We’re going to miss him, I can tell you that.
"Coach King promised us when he came here, his goals were to coach high school for five to eight years. He’s given us that. So I knew it was a matter of a time because I knew what his goals were. … It’s one of those bittersweet things. I hate to lose him, but I’m proud he’s getting to do what he wants to do.”
King said he was contacted about an open college assistant coaching position on Jan. 21, interviewed for the job that weekend and was offered the job on Tuesday. He informed the administration he was leaving Wednesday night, and the coaches and players heard the news during a first-period team meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
He read a prepared statement to his players at the meeting, which served as an announcement, an emotional farewell and a state of the union address of sorts for the Canes’ program.
"To our players — past, present and future — Hurricane nation is as strong as it’s ever been,” he told the players. "That’s because of your relentless pursuit to be great. You all inspire me more than you will ever know. If our world was like our team, we'd all be all right. You put aside the many differences that you have every day and put aside your individual agenda to make sure our team is strong. I could never be more proud of you. I love you, and it’s an honor to be your coach."
There was a range of emotions after the announcement, but the overall feelings of the players were that of admiration and appreciation.
Senior defensive end Isaiah Chaney tweeted after the announcement, "So much respect for this man!! Thank you for everything @CoachJoeyKing.”
Junior safety Marko Dudley added on Twitter, "Mannnn I could write a book on what Coach King has done for me and what he has taught me. Truly one of the best coaches or role models u could ask for. Congratulations @CoachJoeyKing. #cane4life.”
King said he has had three schools reach out to him since the end of the season about a coaching position and said he has received offers from colleges the last few years to become a head coach. He turned down those offers and added he was not interested in another high school position besides Cartersville's.
"I still love [the players]. I'm still proud of them,” King said. "After they settled down a little bit, they understood. I wouldn’t make a move if it wasn’t an opportunity to grow. ... This is a really, really good job and a really, really good high school and a really, really good community. But I couldn’t walk away from this opportunity.”