Just Keep Coaching!

Just Keep Coaching!

By Coach Brian Danforth

            So we’re at the halfway point of another glorious high school football season. All is well, right?! Well, sure. If you’re 5-0 you’re loving life! On the flip side of that, if you’re 0-5, well, then you’ve probably already started getting that resume updated. Because we all know there’s only two types of coaches: Coaches that have been fired and coaches that are about to be. But what if you’re 3-2? Or 2-3? You’ve won a few, and you’ve lost a few. You’re team has looked great at times, and other times their actions have resulted in broken headsets. (Our broken headset count is at 2 so far) What if you can’t tell if your team is on the brink of greatness or headed into the depths of despair? I got three words for you, JUST KEEP COACHING!

Easy enough, right? You’ve only lost a few games. You still have a chance to make something out of this season. Well, yeah you do. But human nature says otherwise. Human nature tells us to just go through the motions. Human nature tells us to “just get through the season.” And if you’re anything like me, it eats at you. It keeps you up at night. You’re face breaks out just like little Jimmy’s face used to when you were a freshman in high school. JUST KEEP COACHING!

It’s easy to go through the motions. But, as I’ve always said, it’s amazing how well a 16-year-old kid can see right through the bull crap. Though it may feel like you’re going against every natural urge in your body if you don’t just phone the rest of this season in, JUST KEEP COACHING! You owe at least that much to your players. And most importantly, you owe it to yourself. You spend a lot of time away from home for the benefit of of your team, so revert back to what your offensive line coach used to scream at you when you were running the sled. Or in my case, what I currently yell at practice. “STAY LOW, KEEP THOSE FEET MOVING!”

I wish you all the best the rest of this season as you seek satisfaction under a few bright lights and 120 yards of turf!

-Coach Brian Danforth

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The Strongest Kid I Know

The Strongest Kid I Know

By Coach Brian Danforth

I want to tell you a story. A story about the strongest kid I know.

Small town quarterbacks live under the microscope. Every move they make under the smoky Friday night lights is criticized and critiqued by every armchair quarterback standing on the fence. You know, the guys who think by standing on the fence and talking about how we, the coaches, suck, they are somehow helping the team win. You know, the guys that give you those dreadful stories of their glory days. They are the “Back in ’82, I could throw a pigskin a quarter mile!” guys. The “That never would’ve happened back when I was playing!” guys. If you ask them, calling an offense is simple. When in reality, the only play calling they’ve ever done is pressing X on the controller when playing Madden.

Spring 2015

The town was buzzing. The Fort Meade Miners were poised to make a deep playoff run behind their high speed rushing attack led by Tyler King. Rising senior quarterback Jessie Henson was returning as the starting quarterback. Jessie had thrown for right at 1,000 yards during his junior campaign. Spring practice and the spring game was smooth sailing for the 6 foot 4 inch signal caller. The Miners had their sights set on a 24th district championship and a 10th appearance in the state championship game. But then life happened…

Summer 2015

June 21, 2015 was a date that would change Jessie Henson’s life forever. I did not know it at the time, but it was also a date that would end up changing my outlook on coaching. Jessie’s mother passed away on this date.

As a coach, I did my best to console Jessie, but it was so hard to find the right words. I couldn’t tell him “I know how you feel.” Because I didn’t. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain he was feeling. I began to ask myself “Why?” Why Jessie? Why does such a good kid have to go through such a horrible tragedy? Here he was about to enter his senior year as the starting quarterback for a storied program, and then his world all but falls apart. My heart hurt so bad for him.

Fall 2015
As you could expect, Jessie had a subpar senior year. We went 9-2. Jessie wasn’t nonexistent, but we relied heavily on our rushing attack to get those 9 wins. To me, the most disappointing thing wasn’t losing in the first round of the playoffs, it was the things I heard from the armchair quarterbacks behind me. They were ruthless. After meeting with my offensive line in between drives, I would go over and talk to Jessie about what he was seeing out there. And I could hear them behind me. “Bench him!” “He’s killing us!” Jessie never acknowledged any of it, but I know he heard it. At times, I was embarrassed to call these people “fans” of our program. I thought to myself “He’s a kid man. A kid. Yes, he is 18, but he is a kid. Is winning this game that important to you?”

November 15th, 2015. Also a date that would change Jessie’s life forever. And once again, my outlook on coaching. Friday night, November 13th we were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. The same night, Jessie’s brother went into the hospital. Saturday the 14th he entered a diabetic coma. Sunday the 15th, he was gone. I could not believe it. After all Jessie had fought through that season, the season is capped off with a loss and the surprise passing of his 22-year-old brother. Twenty-two. That really hit home. I was only 23 at the time.

Once again I found myself struggling for words when trying to console Jessie. Once again, I had not experienced the kind of hurt Jessie was going through. Once again, I asked “Why?” Why Jessie? Why did he have to lose the two people that were most important to him? And only five months apart?

Why?! I still do not know the answer to that question. Jessie doesn’t either. And we never will. But I know one thing. The 2015 season taught me that there is more to life than trophies that sit on the shelf and collect dust. I never knew how strong an 18-year-old kid could be. Before this I thought I was strong, but man, was I wrong. Jessie has showed me what it really means to be strong. I think I learned more about life from Jessie in the 2015 season than he ever learned from about how to read a defensive front.

Sadly, it was still a disappointing season to some of our fans. Most of them will never know how much strength it took for Jessie just to make it through this season. I heard statements like “Man he should have put that junk aside on the football field.” Okay, genius. That doesn’t just happen. You can’t just “forget” that your mother passed away and go out there and throw for 1,500 yards. However, what you can do is what Jessie did. Go out there and play through the pain and point to the sky every time we scored. Hopefully some of those that considered this season a disappointment will read this and reevaluate the 2015 season.

Honestly, I could not be more proud of Jessie. We built a great relationship through the toughest of circumstances. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to coach him, but I’m also thankful for the things he taught me. He could have quit playing football his senior year and I don’t think anyone would have blamed him. But he fought through it. We were 9-2 on the season, but as far as Jessie, he was undefeated. Not undefeated in the matter of wins and losses, but undefeated by his circumstances. And that is so much more important. Jessie is definitely the strongest kid I know.

5 Things I Wish I Knew as a Rookie Coach

5 Things I Wish I Knew as a Rookie Coach

By Coach Brian Danforth

I remember it like it was yesterday. The day that I decided that I wanted to coach high school football. I set out to find a coaching job at any one of the local high schools. I was hired at the first school that I interviewed at, and I thought that it was the best day ever… and I was right.

This day however, was not that long ago. I have been a coach for a little over two years now. I was hired in January of 2014. Now, I sit in front of my computer in March of 2016. It has been a roller coaster, to say the least. I have encountered situations in these two short years that I thought I might never be faced with in my career. With that being said, I’m going to give you some tips that I wish someone would have given me as a rookie coach.

  1. Be yourself: This seems simple enough, right? Wrong. I have been around coaches who tried to be somebody that they’re not. They never last at any program very long. If you are more of laid back guy who likes to calmly ask your guards while they pulled into each other, then calmly ask them if they know their left from their right. If you are a guy who blows his top when two guards pull into each other, then blow your top. However, if you are this guy, your blood pressure will often spike and you will begin to see black dots. If you count to 10 and shove some more sunflower seeds in your mouth, the dots will go away and your blood pressure will return to normal in approximately 15-20 seconds. You cannot hide who you are. The kids will see right through it. I promise you. It’s amazing how a 17-year-old kid can see right through the bull crap
  1. Do not assume the players know anything: This is a terrible mistake. Trust me, I did it. “Hey Johnny, get in a 3 technique when we go to our team period” Johnny responds “Yes sir!” in a very enthusiastic manner, as if he’s ready to spilt double teams and spill traps until the cows come home! And then… you go to your team period, ready to see Johnny in action. You fumble to get a bag of sunflower seeds out of your pocket, feeling confident that Johnny is about to wreck shop on that offensive line. You shove the seeds in your mouth, and before you have time to suck the salt off of them, a whistle blows. Your heart stops. You think to yourself “please be in a 3 Johnny.” You look up slowly. Your head coach is giving you the stare of death. You finally see Johnny… lined up at corner.
  1. Kids say the darndest things: That’s all you can do, my friend. Just laugh it off. Because I can promise you this, within your first three months on the job you will hear some of the most outrageous excuses you’ve ever heard. But the alarming part is, 90% of the time their tall tale is true. You will hear things like this. Christopher says “Coach, I ‘m gonna be late to practice because I gotta go home real quick and check on my dog because he ate my homework last night and my mom can’t do it because she’s diving with dolphins and my dad can’t do it because he’s asleep and my sister can’t do it because she has to go on a mission to Brazil with the F.B.I.” And I guarantee you that if you call Christopher’s mom and dad, this story will check out to be 99% factual. The only part that won’t be true is the F.B.I. mission that his sister is going on, it’s actually in Bolivia, not Brazil.
  1. They don’t want a history lesson: This can be hard for a new coach. Especially when you are trying to win over your players. But trust me on this one, they do not care. Honestly, they more than likely don’t care if you ever played football a day in your life. They just want to know that you care. Once they know that you care, then they will take a listen. Until then though, avoid the following phrases or anything similar.

– “Back in ‘82, I could throw a pigskin a quarter mile.”

– “If we would have made the playoffs my senior year, we would have won state.”

– “I scored the game winner against (insert rival here).”

– “I had 187 tackles, 12 interceptions, and 3 passing TD’s and I played defensive line.”

  1. Sunflower seeds 101: Refer back to Numbers 1 and 2 and you’ll notice that I mention sunflower seeds in both. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Now, that you have seen how frequently they are mentioned, you are probably getting a sense that they are important. And you would be correct. They are a lifeline, as a matter of fact. So, let me tell you first the benefits of these delicious and salty treats, and then I will tell you how to maximize your consumption.

-Benefits: There will be times when you want to scream, times when you want to cry, times when you want to administer The People’s Elbow. What does this have to do with sunflower seeds, you ask? Well, the things I just listed are often frowned upon. And The People’s Elbow will probably get you fired, and get you a lawsuit. So, instead of risking your job, just eat some seeds.

-Maximizing Consumption: No matter what program you are with, there will be criminals. Yes, criminals. Coaches that have been convicted. Convicted of seed stealing, which in my book is a felony. Now, since your head coach likely not prosecute these dirty thieves, here is how you deal with them. The first couple weeks on the job, bring three or four different flavors of seeds to practice. Be generous. Offer them to all of the coaches. Determine which flavor they turn their nose up at the most. BUY THAT FLAVOR. You will still have some coaches who still ask for seeds because they are filthy addicts just looking to score their next cheek full, but you will disperse less seeds in the long run, therefore, increasing your consumption.

I hope these few tips can help you out. Not only do rookie coaches need to know these five very important rules, veteran coaches need to be reminded of the basics every now and then as well. I hope you enjoyed this read. Feel free to comment and share! There will be plenty more to come!

-Coach Brian Danforth