Keith Garner just keeps chipping away at what many consider an almost impossible situation coaching Brindlee Mountain football to success.
Every year, he gives it his best shot. He talks to athletes playing other sports, trying to convince them they can help the football team. He tries to motivate the younger kids, the ones in middle school, to keep at it and keep working.
He and his staff face one huge hill to climb and that’s the fact that there isn’t a substantial youth football program. Many of the players who came out for Monday’s first day of spring practice knew little of what to expect.
Some had never been on a football field before.
“Midway through the workout, perhaps sensing some doubt among some of the inexperienced players, Garner took the opportunity to fire them up about the game of football.
“This is what spring practice is all about,” he shouted to the players after a particularly spirited session. “I know this is new to a lot of you. It’s blowing your mind. But that’s OK.”
Later, Garner conceded that he had to help some of the kids put the pads into their uniforms properly before hitting the field. But he wasn’t complaining. He was surprisingly upbeat despite coming off his first two seasons at the helm with a 1-19 record, including 0-10 last season.
Garner desperately wanted this job two years ago and felt he could make a real difference in a program that’s never had a winning season.
He still feels that way and he hasn’t stopped working, despite what seems to be long odds and sometimes bad luck. Every year, he comes in with a fresh attitude, and his players buy in. Then something happens and it seems everything goes back to square one, like last spring when the team lost to injury its first potential game-changing athlete since Steven Clark in the first quarter of the jamboree.
That’s the problem with a losing program. There is little to no success to fall back on when things get tough.
But, again this season, Garner is optimistic. And he has real reason for that optimism. While only about 22 high school players were on the field on Monday, there are more in the pipeline, some just waiting for paperwork to clear.
“We had 42 to sign up, so a bunch of them are out,” he said. “But it’s a good size group. And I like these kids’ attitude.”
One legit bright spot is it seems Garner’s in-house recruiting efforts are starting to pay dividends. He’s been able to get some athletes out for football, and this year is no different.
“We have good participation from the basketball players, which we need,” he said. “We have a chance to have some really good skill position players.”
So, Garner and his staff will continue to coach them up as much as possible over the next two weeks, culminating with a spring intra-squad game next Friday (May 17) starting after school at about 3:30 p.m.
Then the summer workouts will start and more work will be done, by players as well as coaches.
Someday, hopefully soon, they’ll reach the mountaintop.