North Marion works, plays as a team
Last week, half the members of the North Marion football program sprinted across the football field, straining to get from the end zone to the 50-yard line. The other half of the team holds large elastic bands, providing resistance to make the exercise equal parts cardio and weight training.
In between the student athletes, the muscular figure of conditioning coach Brett Wells stalks the players, calling out those who aren't giving their full effort and working to make sure they put just as much effort into their form as they do in getting across the field.
It's the fourth season Wells has teamed with Calvin Griggs for conditioning camp, and the first in which he has brought his talents to North Marion High School. The new coach of the Husky football program, Griggs has a history with Wells dating back to their days playing professional football together.
"I've known Brett for about 20-something years. I've played professional football with him indoors, semi-pro and overseas," Griggs said. "When he stopped playing, he got into personal training. I thought it would be a great idea to come out and work with me. So, he's been out here doing this for me for four years."
Wells enjoys toeing the line between intensity and tutelage. His goal is to get the Huskies working together and competing together as a team, attempting to unlock physical abilities they didn't know they have. His muscular figure, and Bill Goldberg-like bald head and goatee speak just as loudly as his voice bellowing across the field, letting players know that he'll give them very little comfort because the opponents on the other side of the field this fall will give them none.
"He played like that too," Griggs said. "Probably times two on the field."
While Wells presents an imposing figure, it's all in good fun. The North Marion players bond through their shared sweat equity put in during conditioning camp and come off the field 90 minutes later brimming with excitement at what they can do when someone pushes them.
"We've got the kids to believe in themselves now," Griggs said. "They weren't quite sure understanding their potential. They weren't quite sure of the coaching staff. They weren't quite sure what was going on. Now they're seeing the results, even just the little results they're seeing, and it's growing."
It's those results that have the Huskies and their coaching staff looking forward to the coming season. What North Marion lacks in size, it more than makes up for in athleticism, and the coaching staff want to see their players to build on that athleticism to feel energized in the fourth quarter of games while opposing teams are wilting.
Assistant Coach Grant Carmichael has been watching the North Marion athletes since he and Griggs took over the program in the spring and is amazed at how fast the team is progressing.
"Oh man, their progress is ridiculous," Carmichael said. He and Griggs have been using the same program for four years to get the incoming players into shape for the season, and everyone starts out at the same place.
"But the progression — besides what they do themselves — we've probably had maybe hands-on four week with them total," Carmichael adds. "Just in that amount of time, the progression that we've seen is light years ahead of any team that we've coached together."
The goal is to push and push hard. The North Marion student athletes are more capable than they believe, but they need an outside force to unlock that potential and let them know what they've been missing out on. In just a short amount of time, Griggs and Carmichael have seen a side of the Huskies that the players didn't know existed.
"These kids and their actual skill ability are far more than what they even realize," Carmichael said. "It's a pleasure to be able to watch them. They just didn't have anything to unleash that beast."
Besides just the football goals, Carmichael hopes that the players take this same approach to their lives off the field. Pushing that bar higher in the classroom or in the workforce is no different than doing so on the gridiron. Work is work, and regardless of where it is applied, people will notice, and it will pay off.
"It's going to be the same type of input and output that they'll get in the actual job setting," Carmichael said. "Of course we want them to go second level. We want them to get scholarships and continue to play. But hey, we all know that's not going to be the case for everybody. So, making these kids into young men and say they could be making six figures because of what we do here today, it's something special."
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