Born on May 11, 1977, Chad Graves, the oldest of three children, is from a family of educators, including both of his grandparents, his parents, his brother, and his sister. “Education is a family business,” he proudly states. His grandfather is a retired coach and high school principal, and his grandmother is a retired teacher. His mother is a retired teacher, and his father was a retired athletic director/head football coach of 22 years, but he recently came out of retirement to be High School Principal of Eldorado High School in Eldorado, Texas. Both of his siblings are at Roscoe Collegiate ISD where his sister is a teacher and Head Girls’ Basketball Coach, and his brother is a teacher and Offensive Coordinator.
Because of his dad’s coaching career, Chad went to many schools growing up, ultimately graduating from Motley County ISD in Matador, Texas, a small high school where he played in every sport and received all-district honors in football and basketball. Chad also played tennis and golf, and he ran track. After graduating, he attended Howard College in Big Spring where he was the Men’s Basketball Trainer and received his Associates Degree in Athletic Training.
From Howard College, Chad attended Midwestern State University, also working as the Athletic Trainer for men’s basketball and where he completed his clinical hours to be an Athletic Trainer. After his first year there, he worked with the Dallas Cowboys training camp as a Student Athletic Trainer. “I always knew what I wanted to do growing up, and it took me a couple of universities to get that done,” Chad admits. Thus, his next move was to Texas A&M University Kingsville where he switched his major to education and a minor to health and kinesiology.
In his senior year of college at TAMUK, Chad talked to the Superintendent of Odem-Edroy ISD about getting a jump-start on his coaching career. Because he did not yet have his certification, the superintendent hired him in the maintenance department part-time, a position which allowed him to coach. He went to college in the mornings and coached in the afternoons. He fulfilled his maintenance and custodial responsibilities after completing his coaching duties.
After he graduated from TAMUK, Odem-Edroy ISD hired Chad full time where he taught PE and was the Junior High Athletic Coordinator. Two years later, he was moved up to the high school campus to become the Offensive Line Coach as well as the Head Power Lifting Coach. Chad coached in Odem for five years before taking the Offensive Coordinator position and Head Power Lifting job in Mathis. He remained on Coach Ray Zepeda’s staff in Mathis until two years later when the staff all left to Houston. Coach Zepeda had accepted the high school job at Galena Park ISD, and he took Chad as Offensive Coordinator.
“After six years in Galena Park,” Chad explains, “My oldest son was going into seventh grade, and my wife and I wanted to find a small community to allow him to participate in as many sports and activities as he wanted.” Because Galena Park was a Class 4A at the time with one high school and two feeder middle schools, Chad’s son would have had to play only one sport to be successful. So, Chad applied to several small schools and was a finalist in a small East Texas community when Natalia offered him the job. “I jumped at the opportunity and have been trying to make our community proud ever since.” Chad has now been in Natalia ISD for six years, serving as Athletic Director/Head Coach, Interim Junior High Principal, Interim High School Principal, and Interim Superintendent. And, most importantly, this year Chad led the Natalia Mustangs to a winning season, finishing with a 9-2 record and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Chad and his wife, Leah, who is also an educator – District Math Coordinator at Medina Valley ISD – have been married 15 years and have three children. Their oldest, Caden Fregia, is a senior at Natalia High School. “He is the main reason why we are here in Natalia,” Chad says. And, he adds, “He has been such a joy to watch grow into a great man. I could not be more honored and proud to be his father…. Caden is not only a good football player, he is also a member of the Natalia National Honor Society and is a role model for his brother and sister.” Caden has earned many honors: Second Team All-District Running Back his sophomore year; First Team All-District Honors his junior year and Legacy Bowl MVP; and this year, his senior year, he received First Team All-District Running Back and District 15-AAA Defensive MVP honors.
Chad and Leah also have Cameron and Catherine, twins who are in the sixth grade. Chad says that Cameron is “a typical coach’s son, living and breathing football.” Catherine, “who has a passion for softball and volleyball,” Chad says, “just loves seeing her daddy out there and watching her big brother.” He reflects nostalgically, “It’s going to be hard to not coach Caden anymore, but I have a feeling that Cameron and Catherine will keep me busy!”
About the family life of coaching, Chad says, “I don’t know how Leah has put up with me for so long being a coach’s wife. We have a picture frame in our house that says ‘We interrupt this marriage to bring you the football season.’ That is not far from the truth.” He adds that Leah has been a huge supporter of his career, and she has a weekly game-day tradition whereby she calls to leave him a voicemail, wishing him good luck and telling him how excited she is for the upcoming game. Reminded of a scene in The Natural, before each game, Chad looks to the stands to find Leah before he “feels comfortable coaching the game.”
It is Chad’s mission to lead and mentor youth: “That is my why.” As a coach’s son, he saw first-hand the positive impact coaching had on kids. He states, frankly, “I don’t do this job for the wins/losses. In every interview, I have told the committee that if they want a win-at-all-cost type of person, then I’m not their choice. I am not going to compromise my beliefs and doing what’s right in order to get wins.” And, he adds, “That has hurt my football record, but I can sleep at night knowing I am doing what’s right.” As to the next phase of his life, he admits, “That’s the coach’s annual question, and most of the time, that answer is out of our hands.” But, regardless, he confidently says, “I will have a supportive family by my side and a passion to make that situation a better one.”