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2013-14 Boys' Team Coaching Staff of theYear
UDA grid staff aims to
make winning a habit
By Duane Good, Editor

In 2012, the Upper Dauphin Area High School varsity football program’s season record was 3-7.

A year later, those numbers had been reversed to 7-3, the program’s best campaign since 2009

Better still, the Trojans qualified for the district playoffs, also for the first time in five years.

For engineering that turnaround, and for their many efforts toward building on that success going forward, UDA has earned the Sentinel’s Boys’ Team Coaching Staff of the Year Award for 2013-14.

Third-year Head Coach Brent Bell will welcome back his entire 2013 staff for the new season, which begins Friday, Aug. 29 at home against Camp Hill.

A positive ‘‘face’’ for the school. A UDA graduate, Bell had been an assistant gridiron coach before he was hired to lead the Trojans prior to the 2012 season.

‘‘Our first priority was to keep the program together and become consistently competitive year in and year out, a team that had the potential to be victorious on any Friday,’’ he said.

As Bell saw it, UDA was not unlike many colleges where the football program, one of the highest-profile of all high school sports, becomes the ‘‘face’’ of the school as a whole.

‘‘The community looks at the football team to represent the school and that’s what makes it unique,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not to take away from any of the other sports, but the success of the football team can set the tone for the whole school year.’’

With that in mind, Bell and his staff have worked to give Trojan football its own unique stamp.

Since 2012, the players have worked together on community service projects, have dined together at weekly team meals during the season and have taken trips together to events such as an NFL Philadelphia Eagles pre-season game and, more recently, a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

In addition, a Team Council was formed so players could take their suggestions, questions or concerns to the coaching staff.

‘‘We wanted to know what they wanted and what was important to them,’’ Bell said.

Bell and his staff also stressed that players could talk to them about any off-field issues they had.

‘‘We want the Trojan football family to be an extension of each player’s core family,’’ Bell noted. ‘‘We want to be there for them and let them know we care about them as people, and not just as players.’’

Special events. In addition, new efforts were made to make each Friday night UDA home game a unique school and community event.

Beginning with that first season (2012), each game had its own specific theme, often centered around recognition of a specific group.

Educator’s Night, for instance, allowed the senior players to thank and honor the teachers that had meant the most to them. On another occasion, the Lykens Little Tigers players and cheerleaders were in the spotlight.

Themed-nights will be held at all six UDA home games this year. (Teachers and Tigers are part of the six themes.)

With a new coach came a new staff, as Bell sought assistants who had previous ties with the program, people who could bring both a desire for success and  love of UDA’s football traditions to the table.

While the Trojans’ 3-7 finish in 2012 kept them under .500 and out of the postseason, it was a noted improvement over the previous two campaigns, when the program went 2-18.

‘‘It takes time when you are trying to make a change and get a buy-in from the players,’’ Bell said. ‘‘The senior leadership bought in to it, and that was a big difference.’’

Griffiths also credited the new staff for helping to turn things around, saying they are invested in UDA football’s long-term success.

‘‘We all try to get along and set a good example for the players,’’ Bell noted.

The staff also went about building players’ confidence, both individually and as a team, so they felt they were capable of being competitive.

Along with the group activities, the staff posted positive sayings, game photos and remembrances of Trojan teams past in the team room. Seniors Dakotah Wiest and Cole Reed said they believe it’s helped.

‘‘There are more people participating in the off-season programs and everyone has more of a winning attitude,’’ Reed said,

‘‘We spend more time together in the team room on conditioning, and with the sayings and pictures, it starts to look more like you’re around family,’’ Wiest added.

He also commented on the coaches’ willingness to hear their concerns.

‘‘We feel we can go to them with an issue and be open with them about it,’’ he said.

For 2014, UDA’s coaching staff doesn’t want to just pick up where 2013 left off; they want to go even further.

‘‘The feeling is: We’re not done just because we made districts one year,’’ Griffiths said. ‘‘We are trying to get the program to a place where being in the postseason is the norm and it’s what we expect to do every year – and, getting all the players to buy into that.’’


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