Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coach Interview - Rob Friese - Head Football Coach, Willipa Valley High School

Back in the early 1950's I was eleven years old and had never seen a high school football or basketball game. My adoptive parents drove me from Raymond, Washington to a tiny town seventeen miles away to attend my first football game. The town Lebam was named after its founder's wife. The wife's name was Mabel and the founder did not think that Mabel was a fitting name for an up-and-coming lumber town and farming community, so he turned the name around and history, at least in Lebam, was made.

My uncle Pat owned the only grocery in town and he was a big supporter of the high school's teams. He supported the team before his son, my cousin Jimmy, played, and he supported it later until the town shrank so much that it could no longer afford to have its own school. The
Lebam kids had to be bussed to Menlo to attend Willapa Valley High School.

Uncle Pat, my dad, and I went to the game in Lebam, and I did not know what to expect. What I saw was the most exciting contest I could have ever imagined. Lebam played eight-man football (or was it only six-man?). Regardless, it was exciting because a stocky speedster named Skip Friese scored seemingly every time he had the ball. He was the closest thing to a one-man team I have ever seen. Later, during basketball season, he repeated his improbable football effort, this time on hardwood. In a tournament game with a small lead late in the game, Skip Friese gave the crowd a dribbling exhibition that evoked the Harlem Globetrotters. The opposing team tried for close to four minutes to stop Skip's dribbling (at that time, a stall tactic like that was legal), but couldn't do it.

The athletic gene in the Friese family must be strong, indeed because one of our coaching profiles is Willapa Valley's Rob Friese, Skip's son. Rob is a powerful and pivotal force in his community. Serving as both the principal and the head football coach, he handles both jobs with great knowledge, skill, humor, and passion. He also shares an excellent quality with John Ondriezek and Jim Sandusky, two of our other profiles. He defers praise to others, the players, the
community, or the coaching staff.

Coach Friese

High School Cover2: Where were you born, and where did you attend school?

Coach F: I was born in Chehalis, Washington. Grew up in the big town of Lebam and attended Lebam Elementary and then Willapa Valley Jr/Sr High School.

High School Cover 2: When did you start playing football? What position(s)? Any recognition from others (captain, all-conference, etc.)?

Coach F: Started playing football in the 7th grade and played through my senior year. I played nose guard and linebacker on defense, running back on offense. Awards, etc.? Heck, that was a long time ago and I can't remember.

High School Cover 2: Did you play after H.S.?

Coach F: Yes, I walked on at Eastern Washington University. I do remember being on the 5 year plan, red-shirted my first year and then received a full ride for the remainder of the time there. Also, I was captain my junior and senior years and Most Inspirational my senior year as we made the Division IAA quarterfinals.

High School Cover 2: Any injuries?

Coach F: I was very fortunate overall, but I did blow my right ankle out and missed a few weeks one year.

High School Cover 2: After high school, how were you able to resist the lure of the big city (Cheney) to return to Willapa Valley? Please describe the school and the community.

Coach F: Actually, I was married to my lovely wife Lisa and she was teaching at Willapa Elementary. So I requested my student teaching on the West Side and did that at Northshore, then looked for any job in the area. I was hired at Ocosta as the head football coach and English teacher in 1986. Three kids later, in four years, my family was involved in a serious car of those incidents that put your priorities into perspective. The support from both Ocosta and Willapa Valley was overwhelming. There just happened to be an opportunity for an English teacher at Willapa Valley, and I think because of the importance of family and knowing how great the Willapa Valley community and school is (basically a family), I jumped on the opportunity. I am fortunate to have been able to raise my kids on the same ranch that I was raised and to be around people who had the same values/work ethics as I was raised with. Looking at my kids now, I think we made the right choice.

High School Cover 2: How long have you worn the twin hats of coach and principal?

Coach F: A year after our first state championship, 1997, I became principal. So, that would be 11 years I guess.

High School Cover 2: Do the coach and the administrator get along? Any fights?

Coach F: If we do get in fights, we always make up by sleeping together at night. Seriously, I need to make sure I try to keep the hats somewhat separate, but it's not always easy. I tell the players that people are watching for me to play favorites as principal because you play I have to make sure I am as tough or tougher on football don't mess up. I do think that there is a significant advantage when dealing with students on the field and in school. Athletic/co-curricular programs set the tone for how things go in school.

High School Cover 2: If you could teach your players one thing, one principle that would carry them through football and through life, what would that one thing be?

Coach F: Don't ever quit. Don't ever let someone tell you that you can't do
something. And, the best time to make friends is BEFORE you need them.

High School Cover 2: Who were your role models, your heroes, when you were growing up?

Coach F: My parents, Skip and Evelyn, although I didn't know it at the time. I realize how fortunate we were in our upbringing. Also, my 6th grade teacher LeRoy Wade and Bud Sanchez, our football coach.

High School Cover 2: Have kids changed over the years? How?

Coach F: Society has changed, but doesn’t it always? I try not to be one of those guys who says “When I was young things were different…” Of course they were. I think we need to change with the times and monitor and adjust what we do. Yes, it is frustrating at times. Families are not as stable as they used to be, we are in a very litigious time, and we have had it too good (in my opinion) as far as what kids expect is owed to them. But, society has created this and it’s not the kid’s fault. Willapa Valley has always been in somewhat of a time-warp as far as many of the negative pressures that are out there, but we have the same challenges, maybe just later than other areas. Kid’s are different, they always will be, and we need to find ways to deal with the differences.

High School Cover 2: Your program has done well while other programs in other communities have fallen on hard times. Can you think of any reason for this?

Coach F: Stability and tradition. In the history of Willapa Valley we have had 4 football coaches I think, and one of those coached for only a couple years. To me, this is a huge advantage.

High School Cover 2: How is your community participation?

Coach F: We have, in my opinion, a great community that supports our kids in any Co-curricular activity. Even if there are critics, at least we know that people care. I would not like a place that would be happy with a mediocre program, and I am not just talking about the win-loss record. We need all programs to teach kids about life lessons along with the team experience. Team, sportsmanship, leadership, consequences, etc. are all part of the experience.

High School Cover 2: Has the state's economic situation hurt your school and your program in particular?

Coach F: Not dramatically at this point, but it looks like things are only going to get worse in these economic times. If we have ever gotten into a situation where we needed something, the community always seems to find a way to help out, whether it be a Gong Show fundraiser or a
Steak Dinner, everyone shows up to help.

High School Cover 2: How important is strength training and conditioning in your program?

Coach F: I would put conditioning ahead of strength training, although strength training can make a big difference when you are as small as we usually are. I convince our team every year that there are many things that we can not control on a football field, but we can control how good of shape we are in, and we will be in better shape than anyone in the state. Players really buy into that and take pride in it. It does become very obvious in the second half of many games. We don’t have a mandatory strength training program year round like some may, but many of our kids take the opportunities that are available to them, either in class or outside of school time. I really believe that kids need some time off from organized sports, but the competitiveness created really puts pressure on kids to be doing something year round. On the other hand, some schools in different areas have kids that if they are not doing something positive, might find more negative things to do, so it might keep them off the streets.

High School Cover 2: Who was the best football player you have ever seen, played against, or coached against in H.S.? In college?

Coach F: In college there were many. I played with Ed Simmons at Eastern, a lineman who played several years in the NFL and has two Superbowl rings. As a DB at Eastern, I had to cover Eric Yarber in 1985, during Dennis Erickson’s stint at University of Idaho. Eric was the Big Sky MVP that year and went on to play for the Washington Redskins.

High School Cover 2: What was the single best student-athlete you have ever coached?

Coach F: Very difficult to chose because I have coached many great ones. One stands out though as a person who had it all. Outstanding humor, leadership, character, scholarship, work ethic, and ability. That would be Taylor “Tip” Wonhoff. I listed ability last because with that kid that was the least important for his success. A skinny, tall, tight end/outside linebacker who probably loved baseball as his favorite (and best) sport. He used all the other characteristics above to “make” himself a great football player. He was a integral part of our 2001 championship. Outsized, he often made great plays that ended him up on the worst side of the contact…but he made the play. He never complained, unless it was in a humorous way, making fun of himself. I don’t remember how many key interceptions he had in the flat, but it was many, mostly because of his intelligence and ability to think and read. I suppose you can tell that I liked coaching the kid.

High School Cover 2: What are your interests outside of football?

Coach F: Well, when I get the chance, I love to hunt and fish. I really need to make time to do that. FB season is for some reason right in the middle of most hunting seasons…can we change that? I also enjoy following my kids in college and helping to pay for the same mistakes I made, parking tickets, getting towed, late payments on tuition, etc. I used to play city league softball and basketball, but our team seemed to get too old or too busy. I miss that.

High School Cover 2: What offense(s) do you generally favor? Defenses?

Coach F: One that works. We profess to run the split back veer and a 4-4 cover 3, but I think most that have played us would say we don’t always look like that. I am really a cover 2 guy, because we ran that so effectively in college and I loved it then as a cornerback. You need to have tough corners and fast safeties in order to be real effective, but we are known to do that depending on who we are playing.

High School Cover 2: What qualities make a great high school football player?

Coach F: Dedication to the team, toughness, a little orneriness, intelligence, and of course, athletic ability.

High School Cover 2: What is there about the game that has kept you around football for so long?

Coach F: I have thought about that many times. I think it is the competitiveness that I have always had in me. Since I can’t play anymore, I need that “fix” of the competition and the challenge of the war-like strategies that go into the game. But mostly, seeing the changes in players lives and giving kids a chance who might have otherwise dropped out of school is very rewarding. I am there because of the kids and nothing else, and when I quit affecting kids in a positive way I hope I realize that. Every time the thought of retiring from FB comes to mind, I seem to go back to those “kids who are coming up”. The bigger the underdogs, the better. Jim O.

Clarification - Coach John Ondriezek

Coach Ondriezek

In an earlier posting, I think that some people got confused about John Ondriezek's football coaching experience and his experience in coaching wrestling. It was in wrestling that he began coaching in Florida at age 22. He has over thirty years of coaching football, the last fifteen years as a head coach at Mariner High School. At Mariner he has compiled an approximate 70% win record under one of the more difficult situations in the state.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that he will be the head coach of the West Squad in the annual East-West All-star game. Jim O.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coach Interview - Jim Sandusky - Head Football Coach, Lummi High School

Jim Sandusky was an obvious choice for our second coach interview. He is the Athletic Director and Head Football coach at Lummi High School and is, we feel, uniquely qualified to join our panel of football coaches. High School Cover 2 plans to pick outstanding coaches like Jim Sandusky and John Ondriezek, our first interviewee, to participate in a coaches panel. Our coaches will represent different types of schools, i.e., wealthy urban schools, inner-city schools, rural schools, etc. Once our panel is established, our goal is to regularly ask topical questions regarding the game for our panel members to comment on. Subjects might include such diverse topics as training methods, budget shortfalls, and motivation techniques.

Coach Sandusky was a star player. He earned all-American honors at three different schools, Walla Walla Community College, UNLV and San Diego State, the only college football player to ever do that. In 1983 he was the MVP of the Hula Bowl. He spent 14 years playing professionally, mostly in the Canadian Football League with the BC Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos, though he had a short stint with the Seattle Seahawks as well. At the end of his career, he served as coach and player-coach for the Lions. After retiring in 1998, Jim moved to Ferndale and helped to create the football team at Lummi, a nearby small Indian school. He basically built the Lummi program from scratch. He built the first field, designed the logo and uniforms and recruited the players. Coach Sandusky was gracious enough to sit down with High School Cover 2 and answer our questions despite his busy schedule planning for ongoing basketball playoffs. We started our interview with an easy question.

Coach Sandusky

High School Cover 2: Where were you born?

Jim S: Pasco, Washington. I moved to Othello when I was four.

High School Cover 2: Growing up, did you play any sports besides football?

Jim S: Baseball. It was probably my better sport.

High School Cover 2: You played football for a long time, in high school, college and in the professional ranks. Did you sustain any serious injuries during that time?

Jim S: Just minor injuries like strains and pulls in high school and college. In the pros I broke a foot, an arm and had back problems.

High School Cover 2: After your playing days, what brought you to Whatcom County?

John S: I finished my playing career in Vancouver, B.C. where I was a player/coach. Instead of staying on as coach, I wanted my kids to go to school in the U.S. and I liked the area around here. While playing in Canada, I designed and made a football glove from a synthetic material. These were the first synthetic football gloves and proved to be superior to the leather gloves being used at the time. Soon they were in demand among players in the CFL and the NFL and elsewhere. I eventually sold the patent to Nike and so I had a little money. It allowed me to buy my current property and eventually develop a football field on it for use by youth teams and, later, by Lummi High School until their new field was completed. A couple of years later the opportunity to coach at Lummi presented itself and I jumped at the chance to get back in football.

High School Cover 2: Who was your role model growing up?

John S: I guess I would have to say my dad because of his work ethic.

High School Cover 2: Growing up was there an athlete you admired?

Jim S: I was a Dallas Cowboy fan and I really liked the leadership qualities of Roger Staubach.

High School 2: Are there any special challenges coaching at an Indian school like Lummi?

Jim S: There are many. Some of them are cultural but a lot of our kids end up feeding, clothing and parenting themselves. Drugs and alcohol are a big problem on the reservation. I think participating in athletics gives many of these kids an outlet and provides a sense of pride for the community.

High School Cover 2: Has the recent economic crisis affected your school?

Jim S: Yes, we are already feeling the crunch. We have such good community support that I am optimistic that we can survive without eliminating any sports programs but it's going to be tight. The community understands how valuable sports are to their youth.

High School Cover 2: You have the joint responsibilities of football coach and athletic director. Is it difficult to do both?

Jim S: During home football games it can get pretty hectic. I can't worry about crowd control and all the other distractions during game day so I have to pick good people to make sure everything goes smoothly. I also help coach the basketball team and track squads and am the head baseball coach so I keep pretty busy.

High School Cover 2: How important is strength training and nutrition in your program?

Jim S: Learning good nutrition habits is particularly important here. Like their counterparts off the reservation, many of our kids have poor nutrition habits and obesity problems. Diabetes is prevalent. We try to stress good eating habits and the value of getting enough sleep. We have recently expanded our weight lifting program into the school curriculum and I am now able to monitor attendance and performance. We should be seeing benefits from that soon.

High School Cover 2: How have players changed in the years since you first began playing and how have coaches changed in that time?

Jim S: When I was growing up, we played a lot of different sports. Now, particularly at the bigger schools, kids often specialize in a single sport. If they are concentrating on a single sport they will get better over the long run. One of the attractions of a small school like Lummi is the opportunity to play a lot of different sports. Everyone that wants to play gets to play. We have kids who are eighth graders who start for us. It's a selling point for the program. As for coaching, I think that today's coaches have a lot more information about the health and welfare of their athletes. They know more about the importance of hydration, rest and how to determine when kids are injured and when to sit them out. But there are still good and bad coaches.

High School Cover 2: Do you have any interest in coaching at the college or professional level?

Jim S: Maybe. I've already done some coaching at the professional and college level and I really enjoyed it but it takes a total commitment and huge demands on your time. My daughter, my youngest, is now a senior in high school. After she graduates I might consider it if the right offer came my way. I've had a lot of offers in the past and continue to get opportunities to coach elsewhere at the college and professional level, and for a lot more money; but I'm very happy with the program I am building here and the impact I've had on kids' lives. Community support is so good that it would be hard to leave. I have no plans to leave but I can't rule it out completely.

High School Cover 2: Who was the best football player you ever played against?

Jim S: Two come to mind. I played against Doug Flutie a lot while he was in the CFL and I played against Reggie White in the Hula Bowl.

High School Cover 2: What are your interests outside of football?

Jim S: I like to spend time with my family. I enjoy playing golf and only regret I didn't take up the game when I was younger. I also like to hunt and fish when I can find the time.

High School Cover 2: What is your favorite professional team?

Jim S: As I said earlier, I liked Dallas a lot when I was younger. I thought they were "America's Team" before they were called that. I've soured on them a lot since Tom Landry left. I also liked Chicago and was a big fan of Dick Butkus, and Gale Sayers. I watch the Seahawks now and root for them to do well.

High School Cover 2: Lummi plays 8-man football. Can you briefly explain how that differs from coaching 11-man football?

Jim S: There are really no differences in the basics of the game. The tactics however are different, particularly in the punting game. The game is so high-scoring that you are reluctant to give the ball back or give the other team the opportunity to run back the ball on such a wide open field. I enjoy the openness of the game and devising schemes to take advantage of the big field. We probably lateral the ball five times a game. I like to use the analogy that 8-man football is a lot like the CFL game and that newcomers to football would prefer it to the NFL because of the scoring.

High School Cover 2: Can you explain your coaching preferences and philosophies? Do you prefer to throw the ball or run it; do you like attacking defenses, etc.?

Jim S: I like to attack on offense and defense. I was a receiver and an offensive coach first so I like to throw the ball but it all depends upon our personnel. I have to take the skills and experience of the players into account when deciding what plays to call. On defense, I like to be aggressive but it all depends on the opposing quarterback. In our game if you are too aggressive, a mobile quarterback can make you pay. If he eludes the rush, there aren't a lot of people left to stop him from scoring.

High School Cover 2: Do you have a favorite offensive formation you like to run?

Jim S: We run a variation of the spread offense out of the shotgun formation.

High School Cover 2: What is your win/loss record as a head coach?

Jim S: 55 wins 15 losses. (Note: those figures were given after a lot of figuring. It was pretty obvious that his win/loss record was not Coach Sandusky's primary focus.)

Dick K.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Head Injuries - Ring my Bell

In an earlier posting, we discussed brain injuries, concussions, and their effects, both short-term and long-term. We did mention the problems that come with getting "dinged" or "getting your bell rung." We alluded to the cavalier attitude by many in sports who fail to recognize this as a problem. The problem is compounded by the fact that head shots are glorified by the media. Each week helmet to helmet shots are highlighted as the top defensive plays of the week (is it a coincidence that we see more and more high school athletes aiming for shots like these?) Referees catch what they can, but the only real prevention is not occasional punishment but, instead, education.

The fact that the CDC (Center For Disease Control) had made TBI´s (traumatic brain injuries) a priority for further study should have all of us who are involved in high school football deeply concerned. There are an estimated 300,000 sports related TBI´s each year. The actual number is unknown but we do know that it is the tip of the iceberg.

One study of high school players (anonymity is guaranteed) suggests that close to 48% of all those who responded had experienced a concussion and did not report it. The actual total may be closer to half a million players. Those of us who understand the game and the passion a player brings into it, also understand the reasons players give for not reporting the TBI´s.

The primary reason players gave for not reporting a concussion was that they didn´t think it was serious enough. Other reasons included: 1. They didn´t want to leave the game. 2. They didn´t know it was a concussion. 3. They didn´t want to let down teammates. Again, we can understand these reactions, but at the same time we realize that we have to repudiate them. That is where the education of the players comes in. That is when Health classes, coaches, and in particular athletic trainers like Mariner High School´s Brad Agerup come in. The athletic trainers in the Mukilteo School District, Snohomish District, and the Everett District, among others should be commended for being in the forefront of brain injury education and prevention.
Repeated mild brain injuries over an extended period of time, months, or years can have a cumulative effect. A number of concussions over a twenty-five year period led to my hydrocephalus and a shunt in my brain. But I am still functioning (somewhat) at sixty-seven. However, repeated mild brain injuries in a short period of time, days, or weeks, can be fatal, or a player could suffer irreparable brain damage. The name of this condition is Second Impact syndrome or SIS. It is a condition that can be reduced dramatically or even eliminated altogether. A certified athletic trainer could shift the odds in the injured player´s favor just by being there and doing their jobs.

This is not to say that football is the only sport that SIS research covers. Other sports that fall under the SIS umbrella include boxing, ice hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, and snow skiing. Any participant in any of these sports who suffers a concussion and immediately puts him or herself back into the same kind of situation that caused that first concussion is putting him (or her) self in real jeopardy.

The key to curbing the incidence of SIS is vigilance and firmness. If a kid comes out of a game with a "ding" or having his "bell rung", he does not go back in the game! Not until a doctor clears him to play. He´s going to tell you that he can play; he´s okay. He´s ready. Okay, Coach? Okay? No! Of course he is going to tell you he´s okay. He´s a football player. But, he´s not playing. Not without a doctor´s release.

So, how do we handle these violations? If a kid launches himself using his head as a weapon into another player, he´s out the rest of the game and the following game as well. For a second violation, he´s out for a season. At all levels, a third violation should result in a player being banished from the game for good. Is this too strict? Ask the kids who have suffered brain damage due to SIS and who function at an extremely reduced level. I believe they would like to have had these warnings and consequences in place before they played their last game. Jim O

Friday, February 13, 2009

Saving High School Football

Money is tight--why do we need the expense of football? Football turns nice young men into brutes! Football is a dangerous sport that is injuring and even killing our kids! Coaches aren't interested in the welfare of the players – they only care about winning! These are just a few of the things we hear regularly from concerned parents and others. Is there any validity to any of these claims? Do the positives of the sport outweigh the perceived negatives?

For a combination of reasons football, particularly at the lower levels, is under fire. As money for extra-curricular activities becomes scarce, the easy choice for some school budget planners is to eliminate football. It is probably the biggest recurring drain on the budget -- the one place where money can be saved. The cuts will surely begin and, in fact, already are beginning at the lower levels. HS Cover 2 is hearing reports of the elimination of junior varsity and freshmen teams in some areas. These cuts will surely spread to varsity teams if budgets continue to dwindle. Schools in poorer districts and those with unsupportive school administrators will be the first dominos to fall, but surely not the last.

But the budget crisis is not the only predicament that football is facing. What about the claims that the game is dangerous for our youth and that uncaring, unscrupulous coaches are putting young men at risk of serious and/or life threatening injury? The recent tragic case of the high school coach in Kentucky who is being prosecuted in the heat stroke death of a 15 year old member of his team is a case in point. HS Cover 2 doesn't pretend to know all the facts nor are we judging or condoning what happened in Kentucky. We merely bring it up to underscore how, in this age of communications, decisions made far away can influence everyone. Thankfully, heat stroke is not a big problem in the Northwest where our climate is usually more moderate. Modern day coaches, however, must be extremely careful with and vigilant about the health and welfare of their young charges. They have an obligation to monitor the health of their players and to never take chances with their lives. To provide strength and endurance training, to prepare athletes for the physicality of the game, and to carefully monitor practices to maximize safety should be a coach's mantra. Players must be instructed about the signs of stress and the dangers of heat stroke and other perils. They must know the proper way to block and tackle and be continuously reminded not to lead with their helmets. Coaches must be on the lookout for any signs of concussion and take immediate action. The days of Bear Bryant's infamous "Junction Boys" training camp antics are over. Like it or not, football coaches have become father figures, role models and health gurus.

Despite budget problems and any bad publicity that surrounds the game, it is extremely important that football remain an option for our young men. Where else can they learn the benefits of teamwork better than playing football? Where else do they have an acceptable outlet for their energy? How many times have you heard a young man say that playing football allows him to "hit someone legally?" The danger of that statement, when heard by those who aren't familiar with the game, is that it will be taken wrong. Football teaches players to channel their energy and/or bellicosity in an acceptable way according to established rules that govern the sport. The goal in playing hard is not to hurt anyone; it's to play as hard as possible within the rules of the game. Those who don't follow the rules receive punishment and negative feedback in the form of penalties, suspension of playing privileges and negative reactions from coaches and teammates. There are very few other outlets that provide the guidance and life lessons that football does.

Football is also a great equalizer. Teammates often come from different backgrounds, races, economic situations, etc. Once they strap on the pads and don the helmet, they are all equal. Those who work the hardest usually get to play. Superior athletes who don't work often ride the bench. The kid from a broken home, living in poverty, has just as much chance and probably even more incentive to play than the kid from a well-off family. Prejudices disappear as teammates learn to work together for the good of the team. How many kids would have drifted into gangs and a life of violence had they not had the chance to play football? How many kids growing up without a father figure have learned about life's responsibilities from the example and guidance set by their coaches? How many boys have found confidence and learned the value of teamwork, fitness and camaraderie after reluctantly turning out for football? How does pride in team enhance the school experience for all – even those who don't play the game? Good questions all.

Having said that, football is still the most popular sport in America. The game will survive budget crises and bad publicity. Still it behooves all of us who are fans and products of the game to defend it vigorously against attack. Dick K.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Coach Interview - John Ondriezek - Head Football Coach, Mariner High School

I have had the opportunity to work with John Ondriezek, head football coach of the Mariner High School Marauders, for over twenty-five years, and HS Cover2 has chosen to begin our coaching profiles with him. He will be, in essence, a guinea pig, or, better yet, a sounding board.

Besides knowing John socially and working with him, I have been a long-time admirer. He works in a school that has a unique set of problems and these problems do affect the football program. The transient (those students who come and go in the middle of the year) population is the highest in Wesco. The free and reduced lunch rate, which is an indicator of the poverty level, is one of the highest in the Puget Sound area. A committed teaching staff, however, has produced Hi-Q championship teams, award-winning debate teams, a renowned music program, and every year sends dozens, even hundreds of competitive young men and women into colleges, trade schools, the military and into the work force. John is a vital component of that dedicated staff. His Weight-training and his Health classes mirror the man,a man who has dedicated himself to showing kids the results of proper diet, hard work, exercise, and intellectual curiosity. His football also mirrors the man:

Coach Ondriezek

HS Cover2: Where were you born?
John O: In Culver, PA, a small coal-mining town of about a thousand people close to Pittsburgh. The town produced Ron Kolstenik of Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. I grew up in a blue-collar town, and probably still have some of the blue-collar values of that area.

HS Cover2: You also grew up in Florida. Where in Florida, and when did you move there?
John O: St. Petersburg, when I was thirteen.

HS Cover2: Why did you move?
John O: The steel mills shut down, and my dad along with a lot of people found themselves without a job.

HS Cover2: Was it difficult leaving your home town?
John O: Yeah, at first, but this was Florida! It was a new adventure, and it was 40 degrees when we left PA and 82 in Florida. I adjusted fairly quickly.

HS Cover2: When did you start playing football?
John O: In the sixth grade in St. Petersburg. Pop Warner football. I played Pop Warner through the seventh and eighth grades.

HS Cover2: In these economic times, how do you see the future of middle school football in our district?
John O: The rich get richer. Many of our families are struggling now. How would they be able to accept the added pressure of paying for their kids' equipment as well as insurance and shoes?
Losing middle school football would be a devastating blow to us.

HS Cover2: Were you ever injured in football?
John O: I hurt my knee in practice during my junior year. The knee was always sore during my senior year, but I just accepted it as part of football. It wasn't until I was thirty-two, that I became aware of the extent of the injury. When I had my knee operated on, they discovered that I had no posterior ligament. My knee had been like that for fifteen years.

HS Cover2: How did you compensate?
John O: Just worked on strengthening the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee, I guess.

HS Cover2: Have you been involved in other sports?
John O: I wrestled in high school and was the district and regional champ. Wrestling had just gotten started in that area so that title wasn't that big of a deal.

HS Cover2: How long have you been coaching?
John O: In 1974 I became the head coach at Sarasota Riverview High School and stayed there for seven years. We were undefeated in dual meets for two years and then we went 14-1. I started coaching at Mariner in '81 and have coached there for 28 years, the last fifteen years as the head coach. I guess that I am the senior head coach in Wesco.

HS Cover2: What has been the biggest change in coaching in those 28 years?
John O: The time commitment. Kids are so specialized in their sports now, that you have to stay involved with them year 'round.

HS Cover2: How have kids changed over the years?
John O: It says a great deal about athletics that they may be the only place in our society that traditional values are taught. Kids remained the same throughout the years. Athletes are, for the most part responsible, dedicated, and hard-working with integrity thrown in.

HS Cover2: How about nutrition?
John O: Nutrition is the key to kids reaching their athletic potential. When I was a kid we had a home-cooked meal every night. Parents have to be involved in this. Our fast-paced life has led to Fast-food Nation.

HS Cover2: I know that you read a lot, so what are your interests outside of football.
John O: Travel within the U.S. Like William Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highways," I want to experience the different cultures within our own country.

HS Cover2: What offensive formation do you favor?
John O: I've run most of them: Run and Shoot, Wing-T, the I, the pro I. If I had the right personnel, I would run the Run and Shoot, but whichever formation I run I try to stay with a basic philosophy.

HS Cover2: Who is the best player you have ever coached considering you have sent a few to the NFL?
John O: Pound for pound, it has to be Lamont Brightful. He was an NFL kick returner at 170 pounds. He was just a driven person, and you could see that in the ninth grade. He could play any position on the field. He had great integrity, great values.

HS Cover2: What is your favorite team?
John O: Pittsburgh Steelers. They fit my personality.

HS Cover2: What makes a good H.S. player?
John O: A kid who plays beyond his abilities. We win with average athletes, so you try to get them to play beyond their potential.

HS Cover2: What is your win/loss record?
John O:
I don't know. It's not my focus. Others might have a better idea of what it is.

Jim O

Saturday, February 7, 2009


As most of you are aware, it is the goal of High School Cover 2 to receive regular feedback from readers. We envisage that coaches, players, etc., will engage with us by sharing their side of the issues of the day, as well as telling us about their ideas for future articles.

It has come to our attention that some of you have been having trouble posting comments. We would like to assure you that there is nothing wrong with the website nor is there any magic we can do to make it work differently. The comment provision was designed by GOOGLE and works the same way for every GOOGLE blog on the web. Since many of us are "blogging" for the first time, what we can do is offer this short tutorial, based upon our experience that should make the process clearer. At least that is our hope.

If you decide to comment after reading a blog posting, you should proceed to the bottom of the story. There you will find two places on which to click. Clicking on the picture of the envelope allows you to e-mail the article to someone else. Your e-mail won't be seen by High School Cover 2 or anyone else on the blog. To the left of the envelope is a small icon (speech bubble), followed by a number and the word comments, underlined. If you click on either the icon or comments, you will proceed directly to the Post a Comment area. GOOGLE provides a box for you to type your comment. Type your message and proceed to the line directly below your message that reads: Comment as: Select profile…followed closely by a downward pointing arrow. Click your mouse cursor on that arrow. There you will be given several choices. Unless you have a GMAIL account or belong to LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM or OpenID, you should continue downward. You will now see that there are two choices left, Name/URL and Anonymous. If you choose Name/URL, you should type your name in the provided box and click on the button titled: Post Comment. Unless you have a personal website that you want to acknowledge, you should leave the URL box blank. At this point, you will probably be sent to Word Verification. There you will see a few misshapen letters/numbers. Type those letters/numbers in the provided box and click Finish. (Note: Word verification is provided by GOOGLE and other companies to prevent spammers from filling the site with spam.) At this point, you should get a notice that your comment has been posted. The second choice is to choose Anonymous. The obvious reason for doing this would be to remain anonymous. Others choose this method because they feel it is easier (it isn't). Nevertheless, if you don't care about being anonymous, and still want to comment this way, you can type your name at the bottom of your post. The procedure for posting an anonymous comment is exactly the same as when using the Name/URL option.

We hope the above information will help those struggling to post comments on the blog. You can always contact us directly if you have private information or further difficulties.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fitness and Nutrition

The topic of today's posting is fitness. Back in the day, when the high school football season was over, it was time for players to think about another sport or to breathe a sigh of relief and kick back. That day has past. Now, dedicated athletes train year around. Science has come to sports. When I played football many years ago, our coach instituted weight training by purchasing a couple of sets of free weights and showed us a few lifts. This was a first for our school. Those of us who took it seriously, got stronger. But strength is not all that it takes to play football at a high level. Speed, Agility, Quickness and Nutrition are equally important. For the purpose of this discussion, these four combined with Strength are lumped into a single category--Fitness.

How important each of these is depends somewhat on the position played. Obviously, strength is probably more important to a lineman than a wide receiver but receivers also benefit from strength and fast linemen are in demand. It used to be that bigger was better for linemen. I remember playing in high school against a fat 300 pounder who was rolled out on the field to play nose guard. He was there for one purpose. His only job was to clog up the middle. It was thought that the offense wouldn't be able to run through him so they would have to go somewhere else. So that's what we did. We ran by him. He was pretty much immovable so why bother to run at him. He could barely waddle so he wasn't going to catch anyone. There weren't many big, overweight guys like him in days of yesteryear. They are, unfortunately, becoming more numerous these days as the "fattening of America" reaches down to touch our youth. Today, morbidly obese players like him usually ride the bench until they lose weight, improve their fitness and can keep up with the flow of the game so as not to endanger their lives.

As a student of the game, I often look at the body types of athletes in street clothes to try to fit them into a football position. Linemen are easy. They are the big guys. The tall ones are tackles and the shorter ones are usually guards or centers. Smaller fast guys are probably defensive backs, punt/kickoff returners or maybe wide receivers. Thin, tall guys would more likely be wide receivers and those with a little more bulk might be tight ends. Linebackers are well built like tight ends but a little shorter, etc., etc. These body type models are probably more important at higher levels, however. One of the best linemen I ever coached in high school probably didn't weigh much more than 165 pounds. What he lacked in size, he more than made up for in heart. He was so quick and had such a low center of gravity that, on defense, he would be by you before the ball was out of the center's hand. On offense, he was so feisty that he frustrated bigger linemen trying to deal with him. So body type is not as important as those other intangibles like desire and heart.

Still, no matter what position you play or what your body type, modern strength and nutritional techniques are important, especially today when our youth no longer spend a lot of time outdoors walking, running, biking and building strength and endurance. There are very few people like Bo Jackson who are such natural athletes that they don't need help and hard work to make them better. Steroids should never be considered an alternative to real fitness training. Those who do try to take this shortcut will be labeled as cheaters and will be putting their lives in danger.

The first thing to do when undertaking a fitness regime is to consult with your doctor. Once cleared to begin training, players should follow the programs set out by coaches and trainers. If advice regarding football fitness is needed, there are plenty of free resources available on the internet. If a player is serious about becoming a better athlete or just improving eating habits, we here at HS Cover 2 have discovered two sites that appear to us to provide good information for free. We are neither schilling for nor endorsing either site. Furthermore, athletes considering enhancing their fitness training and improving their nutrition should always consult first with their parents and coaching staffs. We can't emphasize that enough. We take no responsibility for any incorrect information on either site.

For football fitness training, click here

For nutritional guidance, click here

Football Injuries

When I started high school varsity football in 1957, my sophomore year, I managed to make it a couple of weeks without being injured. I remember it well. It was an Indian Summer day, somewhat warm, and with just a hint of Fall blowing in crisply off the bay...a perfect day for football. Late in the Friday practice, I was tired, and dragging, and definitely not aware of my surroundings. Playing defense, I was rushing over to help on a tackle when something slammed into my legs from the side, taking the upper part of my legs with it. It was Keith, a short, stocky, tough guy who had buried his shoulder and helmet into my knee from the side. It was a good block, a legal hit, and I didn't see it coming. He hit just as my left foot had landed and the cleats were rooted solidly in the ground. There was no place for the knee to go but sideways, causing, probably, great trauma to the ligaments that held the knee in place. I say probably because no one looked at it. I received no help from any coach and certainly no doctor was called in to check on me. This was the 1950's when if something was hurt, you rubbed some dirt on it and went back into the game. I lay face-down and pulled myself inch by inch to the sidelines, moving slowly by grabbing grass until I reached the cool grass that lay in the shadow of the stadium. Unless you have been there, been hit like that, there is no way to explain the pain involved in that injury. There are some of you out there right now, nodding knowingly, because it is something you have experienced.

My dad took me steelhead fishing on Sunday, and I went because it was my dad and I loved him and thought that I could not hurt myself fishing. So, walking stiff-legged, I went with him to fish the Willapa. Everything was okay until I caught my leg on a blackberry vine, and the resulting flash of pain was a brand-new experience, one that made me want to scream, to throw up. I never saw a doctor for that and never missed a day of practice. My coach would have thought me crazy if I had suggested that I sit out for awhile. My dad would have probably thought so too. It was the way we were raised. Allyn Clevenger had a separated shoulder and a doctor shot it full of cortisone so he could play in the next game. It's what we did.

The next year, this time during a game, I was carrying the ball, was tackled hard and everything went black. I have no idea how long I lay there, but I came to with the coach saying, "Here, take a deep whiff of this," as he held something up to my nose. My head virtually exploded with light. "Got his bell rung," the coach said to no one in particular as he helped me from the field. I wanted back on the field immediately, and after they administered the "follow the finger with your eyes" test, I was pronounced able to play. That was the first of maybe twenty concussions, I can't remember exactly how many...obviously. My first season I played with a leather helmet and through the years I progressed through foam-lined plastic helmets, to twelve-point suspensions, air cells (I had three of those cells go flat in a game leading to...another concussion), and water cells. I liked the air cells best as long as the cells retained their air.

The point to all this is that there was a time when kids had no safeguards and were not only not taught safe ways to tackle and block, we were deliberately taught, for a few years, to lead with our foreheads. Maybe that is why so many of us old-timers from the fifties and sixties look like cro-magnons. That is not the way injuries or avoidance of injuries are treated now. Believe me, there has been an incredible advancement in teaching the techniques of blocking and tackling. There is also the Great New World of sports medicine. Brad Agerup of the Mukilteo School District and Mariner High School was the first full-time athletic trainer in the state of Washington when he was hired in 1983. After majoring in Physical Education with a minor in Health, Brad went on to earn his Masters in Education Administration from Seattle University. Using his health and athletic training, he continued working in athletic training in turn for the San Diego Padres for four years, Seattle U for two years, the Seattle Seahawks part-time, for 16 years, and for four years at Providence Hospital Sports Medicine Clinic in Everett, Washington.

Brad gives clinics every year for every coach in the Mukilteo School District. Attendance is mandatory. In his clinic he covers every conceivable incident or accident that may injure an athlete and he makes sure that all coaches are aware of and thoroughly educated in any changes in techniques or procedures. In the past five years, all state coaches have become more aware of head injuries and and their treatment as well as prevention. A couple of landmark court decisions have paved the way for that awareness. In 1982 the Seattle School District settled out of court for 6.2 million dollars. The suit named the helmet manufacturers, and the Seattle School District as being responsible and accountable for the accident. In 1997 in Anacortes, Washington, another kid was injured in football and another lawsuit was settled. Brandon Shultz collapsed early in the second half of a junior varsity football game. There was no apparent hit that looked as though it may have caused the collapse, but he had suffered an apparent concussion a week earlier during the third quarter of a JV game in Bellingham. He complained of headaches throughout that week, so much so that his coaches would not let him go through any contact drills during the week and on Friday night, when he complained of headaches, his coaches would not allow him to play. On Monday, he suited up for the JV game and played in the first half. On the last play of the half, he made a tackle and fell to the ground. He got back up and unsteadily made his way to his team's huddle, suffered a seizure, and collapsed again. The doctors later agreed that he had suffered Second Impact Syndrome or SIS. By the time he had gotten to the hospital he was comatose with a severe head injury including bleeding under the skull. Both the left and right sides of his brain had widespread swelling, according to a CAT scan. The lawsuit states that the school is ultimately liable for the players' well-being...even if a coach okays the player's return...even if the parents okay it.

That is a lot of responsibility for a person on a coach's salary. It is my belief that the average coach has two seasons. The first is reviewing the previous season and the other is preparing for the next season. It is also my belief that the average coach, when all of the things he does throughout the year are figured in, makes about eighty cents an hour. Coaches are education's bargains. Brad and the other trainers, who are there every day and night during football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball games along with wrestling matches and track meets may be even bigger bargains..

Brad Agerup was, and still is, ahead of the curve. If a player has a head injury, he cannot be cleared to play without a doctor's permission. What if the parents say it's all right and release him to play? Not without a doctor's permission! What if a coach says that the player in question is a vital component of the team in a run for the playoffs, and without him, a loss is almost a certainty? Not without a doctors permission! With the doctor's guidance, the trainer ultimately has the final say. Hard-line, old-time coaches at times have difficulty with that arrangement, but if we'd had that fifty-two years ago, I probably wouldn't have a shunt in my head draining fluid from my brain into my abdominal cavity to combat my hydrocephalus. I don't want it it to happen to another kid.
Jim O