- Marcus Hartman
Another season of high school football is nearly upon us, and more than a dozen area programs are under new management.
We talked to five area coaches in their first year with a school this fall to see what goes into establishing a new program.
Here is what they said:
Trace Smitherman left Stebbins to take over at Xenia, where he says the key is establishing expectations.
“The biggest piece I look at coming in is you have to know what you want to see on Friday night. What do you want when you walk out of the locker room and your team is playing?
“One of the things I talk to the guys about: We want to be mentally tough, we want to be physical and we want to be fast. If you make a mistake, we want you to make it 150 miles an hour, and we’ll deal with it from there. That’s what we have continued to talk to our guys about because mental toughness takes a piece.”
For Urbana coach Carlton Cotner, the first task is earning players’ trust.
“Getting to know them and showing them that we’re here to help build them and make them into a great team. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. A lot of these kids, I’m their third coach they’ve had in their high school career, but building those relationships is a big thing myself and the staff have been working on.”
At Stebbins, Greg Bonifay is using a move to a spread offense to attract more players, including some who did not play last season.
“It’s easier to sell a kid that hasn’t really played that can be a good wide receiver that hey you’re not only going to block, you’re actually going to catch the ball. They’re gonna have the ball thrown to them, and that’s where I say that it’s gotten a little easier to sell it with it being the spread than if I were going to come in here and still run the ball.”
Bonifay, who moved from Division VII Southeastern to Division II with Stebbins, said the size of the school does not change much when it comes to installing one’s program.
“Kids are kids. You coach kids the same way you do at every school, but the nice thing is having more depth. Being able to do more in practice. You’re able to keep more kids active when you have more because at Southeastern I’d have enough for my scout team and my varsity and then I’d have maybe 10 guys just standing around. They couldn’t really do anything. Here we can send them over and let them practice against each other.”
Long-time Triad coach Payton Printz has replaced Bonifay at Southeastern, where Printz rearranged his summer workout schedules.
That was done to prevent kids from having to choose between training and having summer jobs, and he is hoping to energize his 32-man roster with new schemes as well.
"As a staff, we felt it important to have the players buy in to all of the changes. We explained the changes and why we felt it important to change. Offensively, we explained that by running the spread offense we can spread the wealth more evenly among all the playmakers. Also, we are using a wristband technology which makes it easier to understand our offense.
“Defensively, we are using the 3-5-3 and got the players to buy into the attacking features of the defense. We told them we are not going to sit in a base defense and coverage and allow the opponent to dictate what we do.”
And then there is Brent Ullery at Centerville.
The 2003 CHS graduate is not only replacing Rodney Roberts but stepping into the role once filled by his father, Ron.
The younger Ullery's tasks include restoring some aspects of the culture that have been missing recently.
“To sit up here and say nothing needs to change would be a fallacy,” Ullery told the crowd at the annual Sonny Unger Award banquet. “Something needs to change, but it can’t change abruptly.
“These kids don’t know the program that we went through, and it’s not their fault. They weren’t around it, and that’s OK. But it’s our job to slowly implement that and show them this is how it’s done.
“I think it’s really gonna click when we get that first win. ‘Ok, this is not hogwash. This is what we’re working for.’ And it’s just going to roll from there. We’ll turn up the heat a little bit more, a little bit more. I tell them all the time no one cares if you’re tired. No one cares if you’re sweating. No one cares if you had a bad day, your girlfriend broke up with you or you had a bad day. You’ve got to come out here and do it, so we’re going to turn it up a little bit more.”