Building and maintaining great sports teams begins in the junior high school. Examining powerful high school football teams demonstrate strong affiliation with local little league and junior high school sports programs. These sub-varsity sport programs are the life blood of successful high school teams.
Out on the road recruiting, I did some of my own research this spring. As I traveled to some well-known communities with tradition-rich high school football programs, I decided to stop in at the local junior high school. I wanted to reach out to the junior high athletic coordinator or head junior high football coach. I asked them about the number of coaches assigned to the athletic period.
How important is having a synchronized program properly aligned from junior high to high school? How important is it to have adequate number of coaches in the junior and senior high athletic periods? Is it important to oversee the employment of the entire coaching staff?
I have been blessed to have coached in college and high school, experiencing these situations and alignments. It is apparent, programs where the head coach sets the limits, work schedules, expectations and oversees employment, organizations flourish. The high school teams without these tools in place usually win because of talent not structure. Where talent is equal or close to equal, the structured programs dominate, especially when there is an adequate number of coaches in the athletic period.
Serving one high school district for 24 seasons, I served under four administrations. Won-loss records mirrored the tools and support supplied underneath each administration. Taking over one of the worst won-loss programs in the state (25 percent win percentage in the previous twenty-four seasons, 58-190-1), the first administration restructured the athletic program, including a fully staffed junior high athletic period. The varsity teams had a 65 percent win percentage (49-25-1). Under the second and third administrations, there was an 81 percent win percentage (113-27).
Underneath the fourth administration, there were decreases in the number of coaches in the junior high and high school athletic periods. The won-loss percentage was 50 percent (32-32). The next two coaching staffs, under the same administration, have a combined 33 percent win-percentage (11-20).
I believe structure of the junior high athletic program and overall alignment with the high school makes a difference. In addition, proper tools of support are a must. With the support of proper tools of the trade, including junior high alignment, high school football teams reload year after year for success. Otherwise, without an abundance of talent, they flounder.
Thought for the week. “Winning coaches always remember that there is only a one-foot difference between a halo and a noose.” Bobby Bowden