As much as Monday represented the official start to a new season for the Denton Broncos, it was also head coach Kevin Atkinson’s first opportunity to motivate his entire team in a several months.
The night before the start of practice Atkinson can never sleep. Unable to go to bed until after midnight with a 3:30 a.m. wakeup time, he is like a kid on Christmas Eve, too excited for the day ahead.
Finally, his alarm rings and Atkinson gets in a 45-minute workout full of running and weight lifting before he has his breakfast protein shake and heads up to the Denton High School field house, where he plans for the morning ahead and writes a to-do list for after practice.
This habit of his has been entrenched in him for a long time – a routine similar to the foundation he and his coaches are trying to instill in their young team that it will need to have complete grasp of by the first game of the season.
Often times throughout practice, Atkinson takes time to huddle the team and spend a few minutes motivating them and Monday was no different.
“I just told them that we just have to keep getting better, pay attention and have a lot of effort,” Atkinson said. “Those types of things are kind of laid out in the offseason, but you have to always coach effort I think, especially this day and age. Some people say you shouldn’t have to coach effort. It’s hot and you have to get up here early, so you have to motivate them a little bit.”
Atkinson made it clear to his team that self-motivation never stops and stressed just how important the process is to the end goal.
He also told a small story as the group of intently-listening players leaned forward in excitement and encouragement.
“There’s an old Indian story about a little brave that comes up to his chief all concerned and he says, I have two dogs barking in my head. One is barking the right thing to do and one is barking the wrong thing to do. The chief said we all have two dogs barking in our heads. The brave said, which one wins and the chief said the one that you feed the most,” Atkinson said.
A lot of learning on the first day of practice is sink-or-swim to Atkinson. Some kids catch on faster than others, but it’s up to the coaches to gauge where each player is and modify their approach.
As much as the pain of last season’s playoff loss to Aledo still haunts them and as ready as they are to get pads on at the end of the week, it’s natural for some players to be chomping at the bit and impatient.
“It is frustrating,” senior linebacker Eric Borst said. “You’re antsy because we expect to go to the playoffs now after going the past two years but it’s good to learn the basics, especially for the people not practicing religiously, they kind of forget the basics and how to make a tackle so that when we get back to the playoffs those mistakes don’t come.”
“It’s definitely a race. When we’re going through this, all we want to do is put pads on and hit and do our thing.”
For senior offensive lineman Grant Polley, who recently committed to Colorado, fundamentals still are fun to him.
“The basic stuff is the best stuff.” Polley said. “That’s your foundation and that’s what you always rely on when you play. I’m glad they are switching it up some. We’re going to get a lot out of it and switch it up from the daily grind we’re used to.”
With padded practices beginning Friday and the Broncos’ first game against Lake Dallas on August 26th, there isn’t time to waste according to Atkinson.
“I talked to them today about how everybody that is taking the practice field this Monday or next Monday around the state has aspirations of a state championship in December,” Atkinson said. “We have to match our work ethic with our dreams, otherwise what are you doing. Are you just dreaming or you actually matching the work to reach those dreams?”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.