On the evening of January 9, 2023, Fort Walton Beach High School officially hired Bobby Clayton has the new Head Football Coach for the Vikings.
- Back in November, Fort Walton Beach High School Principal John Spolski announced that Chip Petree, the Vikings head football coach for the past three years, would not be returning to the position.
- According to Principal Spolski, the time was right to move in a new direction.
With school back in session, Coach Bobby Clayton, who was previously the head coach at Gulf Breeze High School, will take the reins of the Viking football program.
The hiring process for a new coach was a thorough one. The school’s HR department had guidelines and procedures in place, and a selection committee was formed to review resumes from interested candidates. According to Principal Spolski, they had right around 55-60 people who applied from all over the country, including abroad.
Spolski says that Bobby Clayton stood out as the top candidate for the position.
“Bobby Clayton is someone that knows us and we know him,” said Spolski. “He’s a proven commodity, has done great work at Gulf Breeze High School and we’re excited to get him on board here and lead our program in the right direction.”
Principal Spolski talked highly about Coach Clayton’s leadership skills, with strengths in player development, strength and conditioning, but also his ability to balance his coaching responsibilities with his family life.
- “He’s a very magnetic person,” he added. “He’s very knowledgeable, not only about football, but people. He’s a motivator and really easy to be around, but at the same time you feel like he’s in command.”
Clayton has a reputation for turning around underperforming programs, and Principal Spolski is looking forward to him doing the same at Fort Walton Beach High School. Here’s how his time at Gulf Breeze has looked:
- 5-5 in 2022-23
- 7-4 in 2021-22
- Nothing for 2020-21
- 3-7 in 2019-20
- 8-3 in 2018-19
- 8-3 in 2017-18
- 9-2 in 2016-17
“He went into Gulf Breeze when they were an unsuccessful program and he turned them around,” he added. “He won a ‘Coach of the Year’ award there, and I think he’s really anxious to come in here and wake this monster up for Fort Walton Beach High School.”
- “There’s a lot of folks that want to get behind this program. There’s a lot of folks that want to support this program, we just need to get all the gears running in the right direction.”
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Spolski said he was is impressed by Coach Clayton’s comprehensive growth plan for the program, which focuses on developing and strengthening players from the time they leave the eighth grade to the time they’re moving on to post-secondary.
“I’m talking about a comprehensive growth plan that I think has served him well at his previous school,” he said. “You take these young men and build relationships with them and then teach and develop them. The next thing you know, you start winning some football games.”
Winning is something that the Vikings are looking forward to in the coming season.
“We haven’t won a football game in a couple years,” said Spolski. “And I would tell you that, us being able to knock down some drives and put some scores on the board and win some games…that would be a great start.
He added that then, students get to experience what winning and success feels like and can start building a culture at Fort Walton Beach that they can all be proud of.
Up next, Spolski is excited to get Coach Clayton over to the school on Tuesday for what he describes as a “full makeover of the football program.”
“It is a big deal,” he added. “He is the right guy for Fort Walton Beach High School, and we’re excited that he will be wearing Vikings on his visor.”