Pieces of the Puzzle

I often hear things like “how are they so good year after year?”, and “we have great athletes – why didn’t we have a better season?”.  In most cases the people asking these questions aren’t seeing the entire picture.  The teams that are always strong have several things in common, and I will try to cover some of the most important pieces of the puzzle.  I focus on football, but these things apply to all sports.

Coaching
Far too many schools do their athletes, and athletic programs, a disservice by changing coaches every 1-2 years.  Hiring a “big name” coach won’t guarantee immediate success.  Most teams that are successful year after year have given their coach time to build, and maintain, their programs.  Teams like Richland Springs, Borden County, Abbott, Strawn, and May have had their head coach for 10+ years  and they are always tough.  On average, it takes three years for a coach to establish a program.  Expecting a coach to turn a program around during the first season is absurd – remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
There are some situations where a coach “isn’t a good fit”, but they can be minimized.  Hiring committees, and school administration, should be solid in their requirements and expectations before posting an opening.  These should be clearly expressed to candidates before and/or during interviews.

Parents
Negative input from parents will always be detrimental to a team.  Speaking badly about a coach in front of players undermines the coach’s authority and reduces the player’s respect for the coach.  If you have an issue, schedule a meeting with the coach and don’t take your child.
Don’t complain to the coach if your child doesn’t get much playing time – encourage your child to work harder.  Most coaches are under constant pressure to win, so the best athletes and hardest workers will spend more time on the field.  Teach your kid that playing time is earned, not given.
Never go to school administrators about a coach unless there is a valid reason for concern.  “He hurt my baby’s feelings” and “my son should get more playing time” aren’t valid reasons.  Expect the administration to stand behind their coaches unless there is evidence of something unsafe, improper, or immoral.

Administration
Administrators have a vital role in an athletic program.  They can bridge the gap, or create a greater rift, between upset parents and coaching staff.  It’s extremely important for admin to stand behind coaches. They should never reprimand a coach in front of parents or students.  Doing so undermines the coach’s authority.
Administrators should never micro-manage the program.  If the athletic director and/or coach needs constant supervision, they aren’t the right person for the job.

Players
No player should get a “super star” mentality.  It doesn’t matter if you are the greatest to ever play the game and have set records, you can’t do it alone.  A bad snap, bobbled toss, or a missed block – any one of these can be the difference between a 40 yard gain and a 10 yard loss.  Show appreciation for the efforts of your teammates – it will benefit everyone.
Be a team on and off the field.  Teamwork during practices and games is important, but not enough.  Disputes and animosity between teammates off the field will cause problems on the field.  Get issues worked out quickly, and move on.  If a teammate is struggling with a class you do well in, help them study.  This will reduce the chances of losing a teammate because of grades.
The single most important thing a player can be is DEPENDABLE.  Can your coach, and team, depend on you to be at every practice?  Can they depend on you to work hard at practice and during games?  What about keeping your grades up, staying out of trouble, and being a team player?  If you answer no to any of these questions, you need to make some changes.  Coaches ask themselves these questions about you when deciding your role on the team.  More talented athletes will always get the first chance at a starting position, but if they aren’t dependable, they may not keep it. Don’t ask for a starting spot, earn it.

Culture/Tradition
When things start coming together, it will create a team culture. Younger kids, and players, will see how things are done and know what is expected of them. This culture will help teams win games during lower talent years, and help them extend their seasons in higher talent years. Program, culture, and tradition walk hand-in-hand. Do your part to establish and keep them alive.

Strawn Steamrolls Balmorhea in Division II Championship

Photo by Pat Carrigan

Article by Garrett Ross

Arlington, Texas- The last time a Vance Jones coached team met a Dewaine Lee coached team in the state championship, it was Vance’s team that came out on top, but this time the tide had turned. Dewaine’s Strawn Greyhounds raced past Vance’s Balmorhea Bears 78-42, to capture the school’s third state championship.

The Bears only needed two plays from scrimmage, before they took the lead. Kyle Garcia broke loose on a 63 yard touchdown run and Balmorhea went up 8-0. Strawn was quick to respond after just three plays, when Carlos Villanueva eluded the Bears defense for a 35 yard touchdown run.

History would be made on the ensuing PAT, as K-Lani Nava drilled the PAT to tie the game at 8-8. Nava became the first female football player in UIL history to play in a State Championship. K-Lani Nava contributed 18 of the Greyhounds 78 points, in her record setting performance.

Kyle Garcia added two more touchdowns before halftime for Balmorhea on runs from 3 and 28 yards out. Tanner Hodgkins was the Greyhounds workhorse, as he scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half.

Hodgkins first touchdown of the game was from 4 yards out, but the junior displayed his breakaway speed on the next two, which were from 50 and 49 yards out. The Greyhounds tacked on one more score before the clock expired for intermission, on a 30 yard pitch and catch from Carlos Villanueva to Gavin Duncan.

Balmorhea could only muster up one touchdown in the third quarter, while Strawn erupted for three touchdowns. The Greyhounds hit the Bears with a trifecta of offensive weapons, which made it tough on the Balmorhea defense. Carlos Villanueva and Julian Fraga found the end zone with their legs, while Villanueva hit Hodgkins on a 37 yard air strike.

Kyle Garcia carried the Bears in the fourth quarter with a pair of touchdown runs from 5 and 34 yards out, but Balmorhea’s defense was unable to slow down the Greyhounds offense, who countered with two more touchdowns of their own.

The Greyhounds return the bulk of their playmakers for the 2018 season and Strawn will remain in Division 2 after realignment. The Greyhounds will definitely be a force to be reckoned with next year and should enter the season as favorites to repeat.

All-District Honors Show The Future Is Bright For The McLean Tigers

Article by Garrett Ross

Photo by Rodney Ayers

The 2017 football season is sadly coming to an end, but now is the time when players and coaches are receiving awards for their accomplishments throughout the year. The Class 1A Division 1 District 1 awards were released this week and after a close observation, I came away realizing that the McLean Tigers will be loaded next season.

The McLean Tigers were under the radar all season, that is until district play rolled around and they dominated an undefeated White Deer team 58-36. McLean would go on to be the runner-up in District 1 and the Tigers stormed into the playoffs where they made it to the quarterfinals.

The Tigers lone district loss came against Happy 74-28, but the Cowboys were a veteran team with a lot of big game experience. McLean defeated Nazareth 89-49 and Knox City 75-44, before coming up short to Happy for the second time this season 86-40.

McLean had five players make First Team Offense; WR Jayden Abshire, SC Dalton Abshire, RB Ben Crockett, SB Cayden Mann and KR Kade Reichmann, of these five players only one is a senior. The Tigers had three players earn First Team Defense honors; DL Jordan Parsons, CB Bradley Hannon and LB Chisim Henderson, two of the three will be returning next season.

McLean will be returning six players with First Team All-District honors, including Chisim Henderson. Chisim Henderson is the 6’3 185lb LB with the pain tolerance of a Roman Gladiator. Henderson took a shot against Knox City http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/6017645/highlights/5a1caf17da516e0d2ca65232
that sidelined him for two plays, before coming back to break loose for a 40 yard touchdown five plays after returning. The junior played a quarter and a half of football with broken ribs, lacerated liver, and a ruptured spleen.

The Tigers will enter the 2018 season with momentum and experience, these two entities, along with the chance of a new district with realignment have McLean poised for success.

Cowboy’s Semi-Final Predictions

I did well with my quarter-final picks, only missing one game. Tioga kept me from having a perfect week with an impressive 44-40 victory over Union Hill. They beat the spread by 36 points and won the game with a 30+ yard field goal- something rarely seen in six-man.
Hopefully I’ll get 100% this week, but it’s going to be tough.
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