Finishing On Top

Finishing on TopBy Aaron Ware

 There have been many ways and circumstances in which athletes have ended their careers. However, there is one way that every athlete would like to go out: on top. What better way to wrap things up than to win it all? It happened that way for Broncos quarterback John Elway. Years later, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis experienced that same achievement, and in his hometown of Detroit, no less. If the end of this current season works out the way Fairmont Height’s Kevin Smith wants it, he’ll get to feel the same excitement that Elway and Bettis felt.

Smith’s goal to finish out his senior season is simple; he plans to win the championship. The championship in question is the MPSSAA Class 1A Championship. Luckily for Smith, he’s not alone in this quest. He has an army behind him, so to speak.

“My team has helped me out tremendously,” said Smith. One teammate he singles out in particular is fellow senior backcourt mate, and friend, Darrell Bolding. “Every day in practice we push each other. He’ll push me in some areas, I’ll push him in some areas,” said Smith.

This effort to push each other extends to the whole team. “When we go five-on-five in practice, we try to push each other,” Smith stated.

While they do try to get the best out of one another, Smith and crew are always looking to help as well. He stated, “When we practice game situations, if somebody is doing something wrong, we don’t yell at them. We don’t fuss and argue. We go and talk to them and show them that this is what you can do.”

When it comes to providing help and insight, it goes all the way up and down the line. “We help out the freshmen, to JV (Junior Varsity), to even the seniors who don’t see things that we see,” Smith said. When it comes to this team, “Everyone plays a role,” according to Smith.

In addition to helping his fellow Hornets, Smith knows that there are parts of his own game that he must improve. “The part of my game I’m trying to work on is seeing the floor better,” he said. “I remember, when I first started to play, I used to have tunnel vision to my right side. I would only see what was on the right side of the floor because I’m right handed.”

Because Smith has focused on this weakness, he has seen this skill area develop. “I think I’ve developed in seeing the floor better and moving the ball. I am also seeing how, when I move, players move.” He is also seeing how he can “set up reactions” to get his teammates the ball. “If I drive past one player up top, I know the big man is stepping out on me. So, if he steps out on me, I know my man on the block is open.” With more efforts to analyze different situations on the floor, Smith knows that he can make continued improvements when it comes to seeing the floor.

When it comes to developing as a player, overall, Smith stated, “I think I developed slowly but surely.” While things went pretty smooth in his JV career, Varsity came with some growing pains. “I was new to it, so I had to make some adjustments,” Smith admits. Smith now refers to his first season on Varsity as “mostly a learning experience.” Now, as a senior, Smith said that this year is his to “go after it and play my heart out.”

College is definitely on the mind of this senior. When asked what he was looking for in a school, Smith said, “I don’t want to go to a school just for basketball. I want to go to a school where I can get actually get a good education. I want to benefit from it.”

While getting to the professional ranks would be great, getting a proper education is the priority. “I’d rather get my degree and have something else to fall back on, just in case I need a plan B.” Smith would like to major in biology wherever he decides to attend school in the fall.

Whether he is in the classroom or on the floor, Smith knows that he has at least a few people who look up to him: his little brothers. “They influence me to play better and to stay on top of my game,” Smith stated.

Smith’s little brothers also play basketball. According to Smith, “After every game I hear ‘Mommy, I want to wear number ten (Smith’s number). Mommy, I want to play like Kevin.’ Knowing that they want to be like me and try to mimic things that I do motivates me to be a better person and do a better job of things in any aspect that I can.”

With the MPSSAA playoffs starting for Fairmont Heights this week, time and play will determine what will happen with Smith and his team. With plenty of factors to motivate him and a goal set, Smith will do anything he can to “go after it” and finish his senior year on top.


In The Zone With E.St.Louis Flyers DB Tahler Cook!


We got a chance to ask a few questions to one of Illinois most under rated defensive backs East St. Louis Flyer Tahler Cook. Cook who is 6’0 195 plays big in coverage as well as takes care of business inside the box. Cook who represents the C/O 2017 at the moment holds 0 offers. 
When we asked Tahler what got him into football :

 Just the love for the game, to takes my mind off the things going on around me, and that the only time I really feel like I have a family.

And coming from a tough community like East St Louis it’s not easy to escape the temptations around you. That’s why he replied to the next question of how far do he hope his talents can take him:
 I want to take football as far as my abilities allow me to take it! 
And as seen on his HL his most favorite thing about Football is defense and definitely: Hitting people.

Tahler stated his team goal is to win state since their season got cut short due to the teachers strike and his personal goal is to get noticed and show his abilities to colleges that he can make plays and show everything he couldn’t because of an injury last season
When asked if the playoffs and championship run is in the picture for the Flyers Tahler replied hands down: Yes

And even though we don’t look ahead of any opponent we ask what game was he most excited to play this coming season and St.louis power CBC was the answer. So teams facing T. Cook before hand better be ready because he’s preparing for a boarder war!

Cook stated he’s Extremely confident about this season because his team is full of competitors and he’s a “Big” one and this is his last year to show everybody his talent.

When not tied up with working out, practice are in the books Cook’s biggest interest is Music.
One of the most important thing’s Tahler want ISN readers and Coaches to know is: I never give up 
And if he had one message for our readers it’s: Never give up even when all odds are against you! 

🇺🇸DBTahler Cook 6’0 195 17’ESTLHS(IL)📍Explosive📍Attack📍Hitter📍Can cover

Dear High School Football Players: No, You Don’t Run a 4.4 40

Every football player covets a fast 40-Yard Dash time. A blazing 40 can gain the attention of coaches and scouts, and it looks downright impressive. It’s a source of pride on the field, akin to a big Bench Press in the weight room.
Yet it seems every high school football player we talk to can run a 4.40-second 40.
Our immediate reaction: “Holy cow! You’re clearly going D-I. Heck, that’s better than most NFL prospects!”
And it’s faster than most pro football players. The chart below from shows the positional average 40-Yard Dash times active NFL players during the 2013 season.

The fastest average time is a 4.48, which raises a serious red flag. How can high school football players run faster than NFL players? These times were posted at the NFL Combine, which makes us even more suspicious.
To prepare for the Combine, prospects spend about two months training at elite sports performance facilities to improve their 40-Yard Dash times—as well as their performance on other tests. They achieve their goals with a combination of explosive strength work and constant practice to hone their technique. As a high school athlete, you are still developing your strength and speed. You may have worked on your 40 technique, but nowhere near the level of a Combine athlete. Your training goal is to improve your football skills. Combine athletes train in programs that are specifically designed to improve their 40 times.
See the problem here? A 4.4 in high school is highly improbable, and definitely less frequent than is typically advertised.
But we aren’t calling high school football players liars. It all comes down to timing.
At the high school level, the 40-Yard Dash is usually timed by hand, meaning a person with a stopwatch clocks your 40. At the NFL Combine, the 40 is electronically timed, which produces consistently slower but more accurate times.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the hand-timed method produces average 40 times 0.31 seconds faster, and as much as 0.42 seconds faster. Timed electronically, your 4.4 seconds quickly become 4.71.
Most high school 40 times are recorded by individuals who are experienced in timing the 40-Yard Dash. If your buddy or parent timed you, your results might be even more skewed.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some of you might in fact have a ridiculously fast 40, and that’s fantastic. But if you want to assess how your speed really stacks up, get your 40-Yard Dash time tested electronically.

Team Tackling Drill.. 

This is a great team tackling drill, and once you do this football drill a couple times, the players really understand how to play together as a unit. The Cup-It Drill also best simulates an open field, live game tackle situation.
The Cup-It Football Drill

In this drill, we use three defensive players and one ball carrier.
There are 4 important points to this football drill:
Where is my help? This is one of the most important – and difficult – concepts to teach young men playing defense. This means “if I miss this tackle, where does the ball carrier need to go?” As a coach, you need to spend a lot of time teaching your players to take a shot opposite of where your teammates are coming from. The Cup-It Drill gives you the opportunity to coach this important concept.

Take a shot – near man – If you are the near man in this drill, meaning the drill is coming to your side, we need to be sure to teach that player to take a shot – make the big hit tackle. Take the opportunity to make the bone hit and get on the highlight reel. That’s why we play football – that’s why we play defense. You know you have help on the inside, so don’t be afraid to take a shot.

Hip pocket – inside man – If you are the inside man on the drill, you want to maintain inside hip pocket relationships .

Cleanup – far man – If you are the far man in the drill, you’re the cleanup man. If your buddy doesn’t make the big hit, and the number 2 man just holds him up, it’s your job to clean it up and get the hit. Or, if your two teammates force a turnover, you should be the man to clean it up and scoop and score off the fumble.

5 Useful Offense and Defensive Line Conditioning Workouts 


Football conditioning has absolutely zero to do with jogging. I’ve been screaming this for almost a decade and many other progressive coaches have as well. But there are still way too many football teams that base their entire conditioning program around jogging or jogging-related running. For linemen, I take this as a personal insult. No one over 250 lbs should be running distance, especially if their job is to produce enough explosive force to move another huge human being out of the way.
Sprinting is a much better option for football, but it can get boring to simply do sprint after sprint, especially for linemen. Because they are the most intelligent players on the field, we tend to get bored with simple, repetitive tasks.
The bottom line is that football is a game of short, intense bursts much like powerlifting or Olympic lifting. Now, most powerlifters avoid jogging like it’s the plague, opting for conditioning exercises like Prowler pushes or sled sprints. But for some reason, some hard-headed old coaches refuse to let go of the distance work for football players. Honestly, if you’re having your guys jog, you’re being a lazy coach.
Once while in college, I went back and visited my old high school weight room. I asked our coach, who was pretty cutting edge when it came to strength and conditioning, why he sometimes had us jog in the winter after workouts. “To keep you guys out of trouble until the late buses came.”
Now, if you have come to the Darkside and thrown the jogging shoes in the trash but your guys are getting bored with simply doing wind sprints, here are a few conditioning workouts for you.
Hill sprints
If you can find a fairly good hill with a nice incline, you have an instant conditioning machine. Hill sprints are great because they never allow you to go full speed, which will save many a poor runner from snapping a hamstring while conditioning. Linemen, especially high school offensive linemen, tend to have horrible sprinting form, pounding into the turf with a sound that rivals the Bombardment of Manilla. Having them run uphill can allow them to work on form and get conditioned at the same time.
If you have a hill that’s roughly a 30–40-yard run, you can start off with eight good sprints and work up to 12. Doesn’t sound like much, but trust me—it is. Running hills is flat out hard and builds as much mental toughness as it does physical toughness. Sprint up the hill, walk down, and repeat. Keep the rest periods short. This shouldn’t take all day.
Hill sprint and sandbag carry
Here is an excellent way to work on mental toughness that builds on the basic hill sprint. Rather than just bound up the hill, you’ll carry a medium to heavy sandbag the entire way in either the Zercher position or on one of your shoulders. Both ways can and should be used. This has the added benefit of strengthening the abs and obliques while you build endurance.
Start with five sprints and work up to ten. You can combine this with regular hill sprints by doing five with a sandbag and then 3–5 without. Again, sprint, walk back, and sprint.
Prowler high-low relays
Football conditioning and the Prowler are a match made in heaven. Obviously, for linemen, driving a sled or Prowler is an excellent way to condition and improve skills. Prowler drives and sprints are excellent ways to build your work capacity, and if you keep your hips low and your body in a good football position, a great way to build football-specific strength.
Load a prowler to a moderately heavy weight. You want to be able to move quickly but not do an all out sprint. Push it with the high bars for 15 yards. Stay low. Keep your hips down, much like blocking. Then at the 15-yard mark, immediately go to the front of the Prowler and drive it back on the low bars.
This takes much longer than a normal football play and that’s fine because this exercise goes beyond simple football conditioning. This is the type of movement that builds the kind of mental toughness that has you making the big tackle when everyone else is tired in the fourth quarter.
Start with five of these and work up to ten before adding weight.
Simulated game conditioning
This is the longest of the conditioning workouts. I know some people are fond of trying to condition for huge periods of time, but it’s unrealistic. Running 40s for an hour is boring and unproductive. The best thing you can do to get in top football condition is to play football. Of course, we don’t play all year. It’s just too much on the body. But we can simulate the game and get much of the same benefit.
For linemen, one of the biggest complaints I hear is that they don’t have any good ways to build skills and condition in the off-season, especially when they aren’t in the school weight room.
Enter simulated game conditioning.
This works best with a partner, but it can be performed alone as well. If you have a partner, one person should line up as the offensive lineman and the other as the defensive lineman. Line up in a good stance, take one of your steps (base right, pull left, etc), and sprint for a short to medium distance. Walk back and repeat.
Step 1
Base step right and sprint 7 yards.
Pull left and sprint 10 yards.
Pass set right and sprint 30 yards.
Base left and sprint 20 yards.
Angle step right and sprint 5 yards.
Pass slide left and sprint 30 yards.
Scoop step left and sprint 10 yards.
Scoop step right and sprint 8 yards.
Angle step left and sprint 15 yards.
Pull right and sprint 12 yards.
That’s one set. Rest 90 seconds and repeat. Start with three sets and work up to six sets.
Defensive linemen perform something similar, but they take their defensive steps (include scraping down the line, coming up the field after the quarterback, or firing out and then taking the angle of pursuit).
Some of you will recognize this form of conditioning from some of my previous articles. Normally, it’s used with wide receivers, defensive backs, and guys who handle the football. Now, linemen are better served using their actual steps, but if you want to devote your last set to running some pass routes and having someone throw you the ball, it can actually build a great deal of athleticism. It forces the body to adapt on the run, something young linemen have a hard time with.
The key points to remember are that we are building mental toughness and conditioning at the same time. And anytime you can work on skills/footwork/body positioning while you condition, you are way ahead of the competition.