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The tie that binds: Local coaches, players discuss different forms of team bonding

By J. SCOTT SEWELL jscott@theitem.com
Posted 8/8/19

We're only two weeks away from the official start of high school football, which means local teams are hard at work preparing for the upcoming season both on and off the field. On the field, it's laps and drills, but off the field can be even more …

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The tie that binds: Local coaches, players discuss different forms of team bonding

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We're only two weeks away from the official start of high school football, which means local teams are hard at work preparing for the upcoming season both on and off the field. On the field, it's laps and drills, but off the field can be even more important. It's the bonding that's done in August that helps a team through adversity in October and November.

Team bonding can take on many different forms. At East Clarendon, the team gathers for a pregame meal and devotion before each game. "We all go together as a team, and just sit and talk. We're like a brotherhood," said ECHS quarterback Cub Cook.

At Crestwood, the team has bonded with unscheduled weightlifting. Several members of the team are on a group chat, and they all motivate each other to get together and put in extra work even when it's not mandated by the coaches.

"It kinda made the hair stand on the back of my neck," said Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson. "When you got guys buying in and thinking about football off the field, that's a positive thing. They can be doing 100 other things that have nothing to do with football. When they take the opportunity to (get together) and have a 20-30 minute workout, that's a good thing."

Scott's Branch head coach Leonard Johnson has taken team bonding to a whole other level with "Camp Johnson." Each of his players has spent the week sleeping in the Scott's Branch gymnasium while training together during the day and eating all of their meals together.

Johnson takes the players' phones away from them in the morning and then gives them back to them for one hour a day. At least, that was until team infractions began costing players some of their minutes.

"The main thing is for us to come together as a team," said Johnson. "At Camp Johson we stay together, we live together, we wake up together, and we fuss at each other together. To be a team, you have to have that bonding experience."

Off the field, players often use video games like EA Sports' Madden NFL 20 to bond. The game was just released last week, and is already a big hit with local players.

East Clarendon's Cook says "I'm a huge Madden fan. I play it all the time." If he were in the game he'd give himself an 80 for arm strength, and either an 80 or 85 for speed. Robert E. Lee's Matthew Johnson joked that his speed rating would be a 99. "Yeah, me and Tyreek Hill would be neck and neck."

Thomas Sumter Academy head coach Randy Stogner is a big fan of Madden, the former coach of the Oakland Raiders, but not so much the video game. "I'm a big Madden fan, but I just like to watch him on Thanksgiving Day when he gives out that turkey leg and talks about linemen."