By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
“Give me a choice between a state championship and a weekend at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) camp, and I’ll take the FCA camp,” said head football coach Mike Coe to the Rotarians at the Oct. 5 meeting. “Because the state championship will last a season; what they learn at FCA will impact their lives forever.”
Coe’s “winning isn’t everything” philosophy may have seemed strange to some, but he went on to explain more about what he believed was unique to the Cowboys and what made them such a great team on the field and off. He not only coaches them, he tries to build relationships and trust with them, something he believes is very important to making them better players. “Rules without relationships equals rebellion,” he says.
Now in his second year of head coaching, Coe believes that what the players learn in his program will stay with them for a lifetime. It isn’t that great football is not important; on the contrary, football practice sessions at Madison County High School are what he described as “fast and furious,” with everyone in constant motion for two and a half hours (“any longer than that that, and you start to lose them”). There is almost no standing around time between drills and exercises; when the first few finish one drill, they are setting up for the next one while the others finish. He does very little “conditioning” with his team, preferring instead, good hard practices, drills and team building efforts.
However, there is also life off the football field, and Coe believes the time he and his players spend addressing that as well makes them not only better players but better people.
In addition to the FCA camp in Marianna, the Cowboys also visit Camp Skyline at Lookout Mountain, Alabama. Although it’s usually a camp for girls, Coe uses the high-wire drills at the camp as a team-building exercise. The player up on the wire must learn to absolutely trust his teammates not to let him fall, and the ones on the ground must pay absolute attention to one on the wire to keep him from falling.
Something else the Cowboys do differently is hold a “Cowboy Mom’s Night.” Since many of his players don’t have a father living at home, Coe’s solution not only addresses that reality, but also gets the single parents more involved in their sons’ athletics and is fun for everyone.
Since he pays attention to more than just their athletic ability, he expects more from his players than just great football. He expects them to take their schoolwork seriously and do well at it; senior linebacker Rashad Guyton, for example, who was with Coe for his Rotary address, maintains a 3.0 GPA. He expects good sportsmanlike conduct at all times, whether they win or lose; ironically, after the team lost their first game of the season, it was a proud moment for Coe to watch his players line up afterward to shake hands with the victors in a dignified manner, and an even prouder one later in the locker room. Although the atmosphere was thick and heavy with the disappointment of the loss, there was no blaming or finger-pointing, just a quiet resolve to do better next time.
Next time, they did. Coe had many words of praise for the wins that followed, especially for the Cowboys’ great defense, something they take great pride in.
It all adds up to great football, said Coe, but ultimately, it’s so much more than that. “It’s more about the process of growing up and becoming a young man.”