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Friday, August 29, 2014

How To Win In The Phoenix Union: A Look At High School Football In The Inner City

High school football is here! In Maricopa County and the greater Phoenix area there are many powerhouse programs, such as Hamilton, Chandler, Mountain Pointe, Chaparral and Centennial.  These programs have helped put Arizona on the national map for recruiting. Arizona High school football is certainly on the rise, for most of the valley. The Phoenix Union High Schools seem to have gotten lost in all the growth of Arizona football.
The Phoenix Union High School District consists of Alhambra, Camelback, Carl Hayden, Central, Cesar Chavez, Fairfax, Maryvale, Trevor Browne and South Mountain.  These teams haven't won a football title since the 90's.  The Phoenix Union is always laced with talent, so why are there not any consistently good teams in the Phoenix union?  How can they start winning?  I have both played and coached in the Phoenix Union so I know firsthand how hard it can be to win.  When I played we went to the state playoff’s one season and only won one game the next season.  I have also made the playoffs as a coach.  Enough about me, here is how you win in the Phoenix Union.

All the successful programs in any sport are known for their great tradition.  St. Mary's is a great example of this.  Building tradition has to start somewhere and it may take a few years but it will pay off for many years to come.  A student section is a great place to start.  Athlete's love attention and will love it more from their peers.  Get a mascot and have him dance around during timeouts and get the crowd involved.  You can even have him do pushups every time the team scores.  This will help build school spirit which goes a long way when creating tradition for your school.  To help build school spirit you can have assemblies before every game.  Once you get a tradition going and it gets passed on from class to class you will start seeing the team get better.

Here's where building a program gets a little tougher.  To win in the Phoenix Union your head football coach needs to plan on staying at the same school for at least five years.  You can't build tradition if you have a new coach every other year.  He also needs to bring a loyal coaching staff that is willing to stick it out at the school as long as he is there.  When he decides to move on one of his assistants should take over to ease the transition to a new coach.  If this is done two r three times you’re now looking at a program that has had the same system for ten to fifteen years.  This also helps with tradition and is a great piece in continuing to win. 

Feeder Programs
Most of the good teams in Arizona have feeder systems.  Everyone has heard of Pop Warner, put one in your school and involve them in your program and naturally the kids will want to play for you and not be willing to take a long bus trip just to play for someone else.  Invite the leagues to your games and recognize them for attending.  That could be as simple as announcing their teams name over the intercom system.  During the off season have your players put on a camp for kids to teach fundamentals of football. This will also help your players with their fundamentals.  You can't teach what you don't know.  Doing all of this will also give your community a positive images of your football program. 

Booster Club
Every athlete loves it when their parents are watching them in action.  A booster club allows parents to be involved with their kids and help raise money at the same time.  Having an active booster program is key to having a good team.  Coaches can focus more on the team if the booster club does fund raising and other organizing that involves high school football such as transportation. 

School Support
One of the first things I learned as a coach is that high school football players are student-athletes.  This means they are students first and athlete's second.  A good football program has a coach that deals mainly with the student's grades and behavior in the classroom.  A coach also needs support from the schools principal athletic director.  It goes a long way if these two just show up at every game.  A good relationship between school administration and coaches shows student athlete's that school is as important as football. 

If a school in the Phoenix Union High School District follows these outlined steps it will become a successful football program.  The school then will be able to put the Phoenix Union back on the Arizona high school football map. 

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