By Brian Odland
Head Football Coach
Saint Peter High School (MN)
We are a mid-sized public high school. Our district offers two other fall sports, soccer and cross country running. We are also not immune to the concerns regarding player safety. Despite these challenges, we have seen our football numbers in grades 10-12 increase by over 55% over the past ten seasons. I am privileged to be invited by X&O Labs to share what we are doing to have this success.
We have a couple tenets that form the foundation of what we do:
- We must connect and make relationships with the players. This is key. I truly believe building the relationships keeps kids out and makes it more rewarding for players and coaches.
- We are inclusive. We welcome anyone whether a first-time player or a kid returning to play.
- We mention these multiple times, “If you are here, you matter!”
What follows is a breakdown of what we do based on the time of the year:
SCHOOL YEAR OUTSIDE OF THE FOOTBALL SEASON
With the conclusion of the football season, we encourage all our players to participate in our off-season program. We offer lifting times in the mornings as well as after school to reach all our players, even those in winter seasons. Our emphasis to each athlete is to strive for individual improvements. We do not stress competition between the players (kids will do that on their own). Rather we focus on achieving personal records (PRs). This fosters success and helps them develop confidence.
We have found that spring has led to a drop in weight room attendance for a variety of reasons. This past season, we selected eight seniors and they held a draft of all football players in grades 9-11 to be placed on lifting teams. They selected team mascots and had to track down their draftees to inform them, and in some cases invite them, to join the team in the weight room. The competition was based on weight room attendance and completion of their daily lift sheets during the spring and into summer. The winning team was offered the choice of an ice cream treat or to sit out one conditioning period during the first week of practice.
We observed a couple of reserved seniors really step up and take a leadership role with this activity and it forced the older kids to communicate and work with the younger ones.
Beyond the lifting, I email a letter in March to every returning player and possible new players in grades 7-11 grade specific letters regarding summer opportunities, camps and fall start dates. I have found this to be a time saver for myself as families try to schedule summer vacations, work schedules, etc.