By Ethan Wiles
Lake in the Hills, IL- Being a football player, you know that preparing for your opponent is the key to a victory. The hours of film and practice you put in just for a 48 minute game. This year I was lucky enough to volunteer my time as a “Graduate Assistant” at Dundee-Crown High School, where I graduated last year, and played football for four years.
I was never a true starter during my time at D-C. Instead, I watched the other team and learned how to be a good scout player, and help out our starters. I was always close to the game by writing down the opponent’s offensive formations, or calling the signals to the Quarterback. At the end of the season last year, I sat down with our Head Coach, Mike Steinhaus to talk about the last four years and my experience in the program. He proceeded to tell me how he loved my intelligence for the game, and that I knew my role on the team. My role was just that, to prepare for our opponents. I knew that the preparation was important, but while I was a player, I never understood how much time truly went into those six days.
To prepare for Friday’s game, Monday was the first day. We would start the week cramming our team into our health room watching film of our opponent and getting our scouting reports. After the film study, we hit the field for a light walk through. What Coach Steinhaus called a “mental rep” day. Tuesday was our first contact day of the week. We would film the drills we did so that the players could watch on Hudl later that night. Weeknights were for watching film, you get your homework done, then you watch film. The coaches were always watching film and I give them credit. Long day of teaching class, staying at school until Six or Seven that night then going home to a wife and kids and going right to watching film. Our coaches were giving up their lives for nine weeks, and I always respected them for that.
Wednesday was the day we wanted to go 100% because it was the last full pad day of the week. We felt that Wednesday was always the most important day of practice because it was the last time we could fully execute plays before going out on Friday night. Thursdays were final walk through days. I loved what our coaches did on Thursdays. After the walk through, we would run our offensive script against our defense in a game simulation. I felt that doing that as the last thing for the week was helpful to the players because it raised the competition level and got us mentally prepared for the game the next day.
Even during team dinner that night, I would still hear the coaches talking about what to run, what did and did not work and more game plan strategies. There was no relaxation in our coaches 24 hours before a game. I can honestly say that no one got sleep the night before a game, especially the coaches. We were just a few hours away from going to battle with a team that we have spent all week preparing for.
Finally it was Friday. The football players would spend their day watching film on their phones, or if you had a coach for a teacher, they would pull you aside and show you some last minute clips. Just some little tips and reminders for that night. As hard as it was to focus on schoolwork that day, we tried as hard as we could to keep focused on the game to be played later that night. We would start the pregame schedule around 4:30. We would once again cram into our health room and go over our keys to win, and some last minute film. We then would have about an hour between meetings and our final walk through before the game to watch film, listen to music, get dressed and get pumped up.
I think the one thing that was most interesting about seeing the coaching side to football was just how everything worked during the game. I sat in the press box during the season and listening to our coaches communicate through the headsets about changing game plans, or watching what the opponent was doing. Once the game was over, the coaches would go out to a local restaurant and watch film of that night’s game, win or loss. Sometimes, they would be out until 1:30 or 2 in the morning. The players would join back at the school early Saturday morning to watch the film and learn from the mistakes that were made and how to fix them for the next week. While the players spent Sunday morning sleeping in and watching NFL games, the coaches were at the school. They discussed film, prepared our scouting reports, and got the game plan for the next week’s opponent ready for another long week of practice.
Being a student-athlete for four years and now a college student, I connected the long week of preparation for a coach was just like students studying for a test. Six days out of the week were for studying, and a big test every Friday. I will remember the moment we beat Crystal Lake Central this season. After the win, I looked at Coach Steinhaus and seeing the relief on his face, and how excited he was for our players really showed me the effort and hard work that coaches like him put in every week.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success” -Alexander Graham Bell