COLUMBIA—On the lower practice field at Hickman High School, the only thing missing was the crowd.
Vashon (0-1) vs. Hickman (0-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
Although the opposing team was actually Hickman's defense and the referees wore purple and gold T-shirts instead of black-and-white striped jerseys, the Kewpies’ football practice ran a lot like a high-stakes game.
Coming off a 42-6 loss to Liberty, Hickman is concentrating on one thing this week: evening its record with a win at home against Vashon Friday night. Hickman football coach Jason Wright said the key to achieving that goal is the Kewpies’ week of intense, game like practices leading up to the contest.
"We try to get practice to be as game like as possible," Wright said. "We've got to build off the momentum from these practices in Friday's game.”
Pure scrimmage, however, won’t give the individual attention necessary to improve the team’s performance. In order to maximize what his players get out of each practice, Wright adopted a hands-on approach to improving his players’ skills. Dividing the team into sections , the coaches try to give each player personalized attention and stress the need to build a team mentality.
"This is my guy right here, and I'm going to fight for him," assistant coach Eric Thomas said to the players, explaining the mentalitythey need to adopt in each game.
The coaches are not afraid to call out individual players by name to highlight the good and bad things they are doing on the field.
"We’re in the kid business, the relationship business, and you can't assume with these kids that they know,” Wright said. “You literally, physically have to show them. Then it's on them."
Looking for flaws in execution, the coaches will insert themselves in the action during practice. After a complete pass, Thomas pulled the players aside and jutted his elbows out to the side, illustrating what he called the “chicken wings” that they should avoid when blocking and maneuvering.
After breaking into individual squads, the team comes together to work on its mechanics. Some of the best instructions happen during these scrimmages, Wright said. After assembling the team at the goalpost, Wright will subject it to snap after snap, analyzing the motions of its field goal execution. When he notices fundamental mistakes, Wright is not afraid to line up with the players to illustrate what they need to change.
"I'm going to show you how to do this,” Wright said. “I'm going to show you myself. If I get my butt kicked at last you're learning."
Wright also decided to adopt a different theme each week, in response to the team’s recent performance. This week, he is stressing what he calls the “five Ps.”
“Our theme is having pride, persevering through adversity, being positive, playing with passion, and playing with a purpose," he said.
Wright said he wants his players to stick to the five Ps not only at daily practices, but also at Friday night's game. Although he discussed last week’s mistakes with the team, Wright is more concerned that his players look forward and work to improve.
“We've already explored the negatives, we've talked about them, and the guys are trying to work on them,” Wright said. “We're trying to work from a positive standpoint this week."