Coach Atha’s Legacy


Coach Tommy Atha has been an assistant athletic director, head varsity football coach, and middle school girls’ basketball coach at Darlington since 1993. He has guided the Tigers to 19 state playoffs and helped them win seven area titles. Atha has won the most games of any football coach in school history with 179 victories over his Darlington career, and at the end of this school year, he will step down and retire from Darlington.

“When the time is right, you will know,” Atha quotes from mentor and former Darlington Athletic Director Jerry Sharp, who he described as a second father. “I have had an outstanding career, and it is time for a new challenge. I would like to apply the things I have learned here to my future endeavors. I want to pursue life to its fullest.”

Atha described having a positive experience as being one of the most important aspects of his program.

“The more you sacrifice, and the more you pour into other people, the more you get out,” Atha said. “The more you give, the more you get. The more you try to make other people’s lives better, the happier your life gets.”

Atha graduated from Rockmart High School, and he competed against Darlington growing up. However, the best part of his 30 years of service was being with the kids, and he mentioned how he enjoyed interacting with students on a day-to-day basis, whether in the classroom or on the field.

“The kids’ commitment level has kept me here these past 30 years,” Atha said. “The relationship with the kids was the most important part of my tenure at Darlington,” he said.

Atha’s former student-athletes have turned into coaches, doctors, and businessmen. This shows just how the athletes under Coach Atha can really apply the physicality and mental toughness of football. 

“It’s really about the physicality of the game and the mental toughness it forces you to embrace,” Atha said. “The common struggle is when you think you cannot take another step, but your brothers are still pushing you to go that much further.”

Back-to-back regional titles and an undefeated season were two of the best parts of this season, Atha said. However, he emphasized the smiles and the fun that went along with the grind on the football field.

“This football team enjoyed being on the field and practicing together as much as any I could remember.”