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The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Celebrating Black Excellence, Leader Spotlight: Coach Darnell Grant

WOHS Sports Media Association
Coach Darnell Grant has been coaching for 28 years.

Coach Darnell Grant serves as the Coordinator of the West Orange Mounteer Academy and doubles as the Head Coach of the West Orange High School football team. With over 25 years of experience at various high schools, Grant felt inspired and up for the challenge when offered the position at West Orange, seeing it as an opportunity for growth and impact. 

Grant’s philosophy revolves around embracing challenges and enjoying the journey. He believes in never judging a book by its cover, a lesson he’s learned firsthand from the diverse community at West Orange, understanding that everyone is unique. His mindset is centered on giving his best effort every day, appreciating the blessing of waking up, and approaching each task with dedication and enthusiasm. 

Growing up in Irvington, NJ, Grant grew a strong sense of self in the face of adversity. “That was a tough place… [but] it was a great experience because … you learn early that you have to allow yourself to not take no for an answer and not let adversity dictate you.” In high school, Grant played football and ran track. He knew from that age who he wanted to be and that he wanted to always do his best. He grew academically, but essentially in his development and self-actualization. “I learned there that I always had to be my biggest fan and always have a lot of confidence in myself,” acknowledged Grant. 

Later, Grant would go on to play college football at Upsala College where he studied political science and law as well as taking on a leadership position as the student body president. There, he continued his journey to always strive for greatness, and at 29, he took on his first job as a freshman coach at Bayley-Ellard High School. Then he was offered the head coach position at Irvington High School, then Shabazz, and finally, he landed at West Orange as undoubtedly one of the greatest football coaches to lead WO. 

At West Orange, Grant strives to instill his hard-work mentality in his athletes, emphasizing the importance of excelling in all aspects of life, not just football. Having wished for closer relationships with his coaches, he understands what it means to be a coach but also to be there for his student-athletes. “I’m available … I’m always here,” is one of the main parts of this philosophy.

He appreciates that the West Orange students feel comfortable with him and that he is “always here.” Coaches spend countless hours with student-athletes, especially with the intensity levels of varsity sports, “…so, I’d like for them to know that I’m your coach, but mostly your guy. You’re gonna tell me where you want to go in life, what you want to do, we’ll discuss it and I’ll try to do my best while you’re here with me to work for those goals.” 

Grant’s ultimate goal is to make a positive impact on his athletes, empowering them to succeed both on and off the field. A final piece of advice he offers to high school students is, “You don’t have to fit in, make them fit in with you. Be yourself, be your most authentic self, and don’t be ashamed to be that bright light.” 

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