By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Apart from his occasional energy drink indulgence, Stillwater High School assistant football coach Trent Worley doesn’t need much to get him going in the mornings.
No coffee. No sugar-coated doughnuts. Nothing.
“I think a lot of it is motivation,” Worley said. “I think as a coach you need to be motivated, knowing that you’re getting up to give your kids an opportunity to be successful. As coaches, we’re competitive people and this is part of competing — getting up out of bed early and getting everything prepared to give your kids the best opportunity for success.”
Even as the bleary-eyed high school and junior high kids file in one by one for the Stillwater High School strength camp, Worley is there. His voice, along with that of Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard and the other coaches, ring out across Pioneer Stadium near the crack of dawn, greeting each player as they walk through the gates.
“He’s got a lot of intensity about him and that’s awesome,” Barnard said. “That’s one of the reasons we were so excited about hiring him. That’s what we’re looking for when we get a chance to hire people. We want people that are high-energy, excitable, passionate coaches and he’s definitely one of those.”
It’s also that kind of passion and desire to succeed that helps turn what would be a rather boring and uneventful strength and conditioning camp into one filled with life — even in the hours before the sun peaks over the grandstand.
“When the coaches are motivated and screaming around and your other players are up and around just screaming, you want to be with them,” Stillwater junior linebacker C.J. Citizen said. “It encourages you to run faster, work harder, don’t take reps off and encourage others to come.”
And for players and coaches alike, that’s the biggest challenge sometimes.
“I don’t know if it wakes them up, but it gets me through it,” Worley said of his morning intensity. “I’m not going to say I’m a morning person. I get up early just about every morning, but it’s not like I jump out of bed. I roll out of bed just like everybody else.”
“It’s the summer, so it’s hard to get up sometimes,” Citizen said. “But when you are determined to win a state championship and have a good season, you’re kind of determined in the morning to come in here and work and get better as a team so that we can be better on the field next year.”
That’s what these early mornings are really all about. While the Pioneers have been through several camps already and have learned the basic fundamentals, it’s in these three hours on the field that will determine just how successful next season’s team will be.
“We think that our summer time is going to set the tone for what happens in the fall,” Barnard said. “During spring football we are focused on teaching. We were trying to teach them the game because we had team camp coming up and it was the new sophomores’ first exposure to us. Now, we’re focusing on effort, conditioning, increased workload and injury prevention. As the summer goes on and we get closer to fall camp, we’ll start refocusing back on teaching.”
As more and more kids show up for the early morning workouts — topping around 90 athletes between both the high school and junior high teams — Worley and Barnard said they’ve both seen a change for the better in their players. The players may come in with glazed over looks in their eyes, but once they set foot on the field any remnants of being sleep deprived vanishes — replaced immediately with a desire to compete.
“Really the only thing left for us to do is to put it on the football field, both in practice and in games,” Worley said. “We’ve already had some small successes and now we’re ready for the big success that we’ll hopefully see on the field.
“I think you breed success by forcing your kids to face adversity. Sometimes, they don’t always understand it but you can always look back to it one day — one day here in the season, one day in their life — and say, ‘I made it through. I survived. I excelled in this tough situation.’ We are trying to put them in tough situations, both physically and mentally. That’s our job as coaches. That’s the stuff that helps you win ballgames, but it also helps you live life. One day, these kids aren’t going to be with us any more and they’re going to have to be fathers, husbands, co-workers and employees one day, so hopefully we’re doing something that will help them in that next step in their lives.”