Danny Dodson had a few hours to call his own Saturday morning, so he drove two of his three daughters to Upward basketball practice. The first was at 8:30, the second at 11.
"My wife does most of that stuff," Dodson said. "But I had some time in the morning, and she needed a break from running all over the place all week."
This time of year, Dodson doesn't have enough moments to spare, which is the only drawback to coaching a playoff team. Saturday night, long after the girls' practices had ended, Woodside beat Grassfield 33-18 in the Eastern Region Division 5 quarterfinals.
Next up: top-seeded Bayside in Saturday night's semifinals at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
So after his teaching job during the day (chemistry, if you can believe it), Dodson spends the next several hours preparing his team while studying the Marlins' tendencies. His goal is to make it home by 7, so he can spend some time with his three daughters — Lauren, 9; Ashley, 8; and Danielle, 5 — before bedtime.
Dodson is, above all, a family man.
"Even when he's extremely busy, when he comes home, his attention is all about the girls and me," said Dodson's wife of 12 years, Teresa. "Then, after the kids go to bed and we spend some time together, he'll watch film and do some work."
It's a delicate balance, but from all accounts he handles both roles well.
The Wolverines have won 20 games over the past two seasons and are in the playoffs for a fourth straight year. They were 11-2 in 2009 and nearly beat Oscar Smith in the region championship. This season, despite all new starters in the backfield, Woodside is 9-2.
It wasn't always this way.
After the school opened in 1996, the football team went 5-25 its first three seasons. Dodson took over in 1999, and things improved slightly — 6-24 in his first three years. But since 2002, the Wolverines have had seven winning seasons in nine years. They have finished third or better in the Peninsula District standings four times.
"Once I was in a conversation with some people who didn't know I was affiliated with Woodside," said Al Dorner, the Wolverines' athletic director. "And they said, 'You know Phoebus, Hampton and Woodside are going to be there every year.' That was nice to hear."
Opposing coaches also respect Dodson.
"A great guy," Hampton coach Mike Smith said. "He's done a great job there and he's done it the right way."
He's also done it with a supposedly antiquated offense. When he played at William and Mary, Dodson hated preparing for the unpredictability of Delaware's Wing-T. But when he began his coaching career, he decided to get on the other side of it.
"When I first started it, I had a lot of people say, 'You can't run this offense in this district,' " Dodson said. "And the first couple of years, of course, they were right."
Not anymore. This season, the Wolverines are averaging 321 yards and 32 points a game, both third in the district behind Phoebus and Hampton.
Dodson was born and raised in Pulaski County and played ("use that term loosely," he said) defensive back at William and Mary from 1985-88. He never even thought about coaching until graduation, when he realized that somehow he wanted to stay in the game.
His first opportunity came at the Apprentice School, where he worked on Paul Hoffman's staff. Then he spent five seasons at Ferguson with Tommy Reamon before getting his first head coaching job at Craig County High in 1996.
After two seasons there, he joined Lew Johnson's staff at Western Branch for a year. Then, in 1999, Bob Schmidt stepped down at Woodside.
Twelve years later, during which span he is 70-57, Dodson still is there. The only head coach in the district who has been around longer is Smith. Dodson has known his office mates, girls basketball coach Mike Tallon and baseball coach Kevin Hare, for more than a decade.
"I've got a great administration," he said. "Mrs. Tilley (Susan, the principal) is great, Al Dorner is a great guy to work with, and I have great assistant coaches. I have no reason to want to leave."
Dodson has been told more than one that he doesn't "look the part" of a high school coach. Many expect a big, gruff, high-intense guy. Dodson is on the small side (5-foot-8, 160 in his playing days), quiet, and reserved.
"A neighbor of ours once found out he was a football coach and she was really surprised," Teresa said. "He's not a loud guy. He's really laid back."
And he teaches chemistry. How many coaches teach chemistry?
"I did meet one this summer — Bob Oliver up at Chancellor High School," Dodson said. "We coached the (VHSCA) All-Star game together."
But to be sure, Dodson is a football coach. He didn't expect to be in this profession when he was in college, but now he can't imagine leaving. His program is headed in the right direction. Yet no one has to tell Dodson how these things can be fleeting.
"I'd like to think we'll keep it up there, but it's tough," he said. "You have those years that, for whatever reason, you have injuries or low numbers or whatever, and you can fall off at anytime. That's why you have to keep going on and keep trying."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times