BEYOND THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS — Part 1 — Beyond the Friday Night Lights is an original series by Bradwell Institute assistant coach John Wood that explores the roles of all the different areas and roles that go into a Friday night high-school football game. It examines the continuing change in the coaching profession, increasing pressure on the trainers, how the booster clubs assist the teams, and finally what goes into the preparation of kickers.
Win or lose on Friday night, Bradwell defensive coordinator Jeff Miller and assistant coaches Ken Griffin and Dewayne Johnson met the Tigers football players with laundry baskets and collected uniforms to launder.
After the 13-10 victory against Windsor Forest on Oct. 12, the uniforms were especially dirty with the red clay of Grayson Stadium. They required a bottle of Shout and multiple washes to get the white jerseys clean.
Doing laundry, painting fields, organizing fundraisers and maintaining equipment are many of the tasks that are part of coaching football. Coaching a specific position or making adjustments on Friday night are minimal parts of a coach’s life.
Bradwell linebackers coach Mike Stanford, who also teaches English at the school, used the white boards normally reserved in the locker room for x’s and o’s to conduct a full test review with some players on the parts of speech.
The coaches at Bradwell, Liberty County and FPCA usually took Saturday off and spent at least 10 Sunday fall afternoons preparing for the next opponent. Gone were the days of a coach meeting the next week’s opponent in some vacant parking lot Saturday morning to swap film.
“Ninety-five percent of the teams in Georgia belong to (the website) Hudl, so we go to the site and upload the films of the upcoming team we play the next week,” Bradwell head coach Jim Walsh Jr. said.
Football has gone from the days of 8mm-16mm film on the old reel-to-reel projectors to totally on the Internet. However, programs like Hudl come with a price, and coaches and players must decipher a ton of information.
“Programs like Hudl are great because we can make teaching videos from cut-ups to visually show players what they are doing right and wrong which is a great feature. But Hudl also can give a lot of numbers and tendencies that can be a lot to handle because you have decide what information you want to give players,” Walsh said.
Walsh and Miller have been around the game all of their lives because their fathers were head high-school football coaches in Georgia for more than 45 years. Jim Walsh Sr. was a legend at Benedictine, and Jack Miller held the same status at Savannah Christian.
“It’s not just the technology that has changed. Equipment used to be big and bulky, now everything is light and low profile and form fitting. Our new jerseys are skin-tight even without pads. Helmets are constantly evolving to try and reduce impact and concussions as much as possible,” Miller said.
According to Miller, the Georgia High School Association, the governing body of Georgia high-school football, and the National High School Sports Federation encourage coaches to teach players to tackle without helmets. Tackling drills emphasize using good technique and not leading with the head during contact.
Equipment, drills and preparation have changed, and so have the kids, according to first-year FPCA coach Andy Yanzetich.
“Kids have a lot of options besides sports such as after-school jobs, church youth groups, other sports and they are surrounded by technology of all kinds. There is too much of selfishness in sports being promoted. More trophies are given out, media is covering recreation games, so players want glory with touchdowns. They are not learning the value of team work, dedication and fighting through adversity, which used to be the cornerstone of most programs,” Yanzetich said.
One recent Sunday afternoon, Miller was ready to develop a game plan for the last game of the year against Groves.
After a strong effort by the defense two days prior against region champion Ware County, Miller was optimistic about creating a game plan that would allow his defense to have success.
Armed with a 12-page printout, the defensive staff poured over specific formations that Groves would run in different situations, complete with plays and the percentage of time those plays were run.
Despite the technology that Miller does enjoy, he still gave out hand-drawn copies of Groves’ formations and plays to varsity defensive players early in the week.
On the other side of the wall in the offensive film room, Walsh came up with the offensive attack.
Though the Tigers did at times have some self-induced struggles, the final game was not one of those times.
Playing as well as they could, the Tigers won the last game of the season, 42-0.
The game and season were over that Friday night, but the Tigers coaches already were busy breaking down film and getting folders ready on teams they would face next year.
“We finished Friday night with a great win and sent the seniors out right, but now we will take a little time off, and then by January it’s time to hit it hard in the weight room,” Walsh said. “Successful teams win most games from January to June.”