WAUKOMIS, Okla. — As Waukomis’ new head football coach, Mark Timberlake is the man in charge.
But Timberlake’s head coaching style is an end-all, be-all rule. It’s an environment where everyone on the coaching staff can be heard. It’s the coaching philosophy that Timberlake was brought into by then-head coach, Brandon Bookout.
“It all started (four) years ago with Coach Bookout and the system he implemented,” Timberlake said. “Now, I get to be the lucky guy to take an already great system and continue going with it.”
Bookout, who is making his return to football for the first time in two years, will serve as the offensive coordinator with Timberlake, a man he once hired for his coaching staff. Chris Campbell, who was also hired by Bookout alongside Timberlake, will serve as defensive coordinator.
Timberlake, who was officially named the head coach on July 10, will lead the team. But he and his coaching staff will carry the load of Waukomis’ football program together, he said.
“I just know that none of this would be possible without the guys that are doing it with me,” Timberlake said.
Timberlake, Bookout and Campbell are a cohesive trio. The head coach is in charge, but everyone is allowed their say. They seek each other’s input and listen to the input of others if it’s offered.
“There’s no one way to coach,” Timberlake said. “There are a lot of different approaches.”
Campbell said the coaching staff brings “a team thought process” approach.
It’s really nice because it makes you feel like you’re part of a program and not just a piece to a puzzle. You contribute to the overall picture,” Campbell said.
It’s an open philosophy that Timberlake credits Bookout with introducing.
“Looking back, that burned us a little bit,” Bookout said. “But we learned and we got better, and I think it helped the kids out a lot. We had a staff working those things out together, as opposed to, ‘this is only coming from the top.’”
“The three of us work really well together,” Timberlake said. “Everybody chips in … We’ve just been real fortunate that the guys who have kind of been a huge part of the program, are still here.”
A second chance
The head coaching job at Waukomis came open twice in the last four years, and Timberlake pursued the position both times.
The first was in 2017, after Bookout stepped down as the head coach to fully commit to his duties as the principal of the elementary school. But applying for the job alongside Timberlake was friend Koy Hughes, who was chosen for the position.
“I backed him 100 percent,” Timberlake said.
Timberlake and Hughes have been friends for more than 15 years, meeting each other through mutual friends at Pioneer before eventually ending up on the same sideline at Waukomis in 2016.
“It’s weird how all of that 8-man stuff is connected,” Timberlake said.
After two seasons, Hughes and his coaching staff led the Chiefs to a combined 10-12 record, including back-to-back playoff appearances. Then, Hughes left Waukomis to be the head coach at Garber, his alma mater. Again, Timberlake pursued the chance to be Waukomis’ head coach.
Bookout remembered his former assistant coach reaching out to him and asking if Timberlake was hired as the new head coach, would he come back and help out?
“I told him, ‘Absolutely,’” Bookout said.
Coach, mentor, brother
Mark Timberlake is a pretty well-known guy in Garfield County.
“It’s very rare that you go somewhere and somebody doesn't know Mark,” Campbell said.
Bookout had heard of Timberlake but had never known him prior to hiring him in 2015. An Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association game official had dropped Timberlake’s name in Bookout’s ear when was searching for a staff.
“I was trying to shake every tree that I could find and get good, quality assistants for our kids,” Bookout said.
He called Timberlake and set up a meeting at Wings To Go. Their initial conversation included the usual X’s and O’s and what it meant to coach for Bookout. That one conversation was enough for Bookout.
“From that point on, I knew it was going to be a great working relationship,” he said. “He has been an amazing mentor for the kids, and myself.”
Bookout was a first-year head coach back then.
“I think I would not have had the success that I have had as a coach — I know for a fact we wouldn’t have had the success that we had two years at Waukomis — without him there.”
The Chiefs’ seniors were 7-23 heading into the 2015 season. Bookout said the goal was to win at least seven games. Waukomis finished both seasons with a 6-4 record under Bookout.
“But we were in almost every game,” he said. “That’s a testament to (Timberlake).
“He’s become more like a brother than anything else.”
There will be plenty of new faces on the roster this season and one of them will be Timberlake’s son, Dakota, who is a sophomore.
“Pretty excited that he’s bought in and giving it his best in all the summer workouts,” Timberlake said.
Timberlake said his players were “pretty pumped” to hear he had been officially named as their head coach.
Yet, despite a new position, Timberlake will remain as busy as he’s always been, if not busier. He plans on coaching track next year and helping out with basketball. The former Enid Enforcers head coach also plans to maintain his assistant coaching position with the Oklahoma Flying Aces.
The Flying Aces and head coach and team president Richard Davis have been accommodating Timberlake and his schedule, he said.
Mark Timberlake is the man in charge at Waukomis. But he wants to make it clear: the title is just that. A title.
“I’m so grateful that we have such a hard-working staff,” he said. “They know what is expected of them and they go to work. I’m blessed to be around a great group of guys whose primary focus is on the kids and teaching them the right things.”
None of this would be possible without the coaches alongside him.
“There’s no way I can do it without them,” he said.