David Mitchell commentary: Consistency key to turning around programs

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerAugust 7, 2013 

It isn’t easy to break a downward trend in the success of a program.

Ask Northside football coach Morgan Ingram, who is trying to break a string of seven consecutive non-winning seasons. Or Spencer’s Calvin Arnold, who took over a Greenwave program in 2012 that has won more than three games just once since 1995.

Hardaway went 5-6, making the playoffs in 2010, but that’s its only playoff appearance in the 21st century, and it has won only four games in the two years since then.

There are plenty of others who could attest to the difficulties that come with such a task—Jordan, Columbus, etc.—but the point is that it isn’t easy to do.

That’s the charge for a number of coaches, however, and with the start of another season comes the hope that this could be the year.

And it could be.

Kendrick surprised a lot of people with a playoff appearance in 2012, its first since 1999. Harris County, a perennial middle-of-the-road team, won eight games in a row to advance to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals last season.

Smiths Station nearly made the playoffs, coming one win against rival Central away from taking the No. 4 seed in its region. Carver did it in 2006, winning 12 games for the first time in school history and winning a state title the following year.

There’s no secret method to changing the atmosphere of a program, Harris County coach Tommy Parks told me in the spring when I asked how the team was able to turn that corner.

While it sounds like coach speak, and probably is, he said it was just about consistency, taking what a team is capable of doing and doing it on a regular basis.

Early in its season, Harris County struggled to find itself on both sides of the ball. After a triple-overtime barnburner, however, the Tigers won eight games in a row, scoring 20 points or more an all but one game, an 18-12 win at Thomas County Central.

While Kendrick only won five games a season ago, that was probably a main ingredient to its success as well. In region play, the defense limited half of its opponents to less than 10 points.

Carver, of course, turned a corner in 2006 and has taken its consistency to a new level, extending it across multiple seasons. After not winning double-digit games from 1959-2005, the Tigers have won at least 11 for seven consecutive years.

In speaking with coaches over the past couple of weeks, trying to get a feel for their expectations for the season and how to turn talent into on-field success, the majority have been throwing out that buzz word “consistency” with regularity.

Most of the teams have solid talent. Hardaway has a couple players who have a chance to make it at the next level. Spencer has a running back who went for nearly 1,600 yards a season ago. Columbus has a few players with very solid size who have plenty of potential to be impact players this season.

At the end of the day, though, it is about taking that potential and putting it into a position where it can be consistently successful throughout the year.

We get tired of the cliché, but when a team is trying to shake a history of losing, it really is one practice, one week, one game at a time.

David Mitchell, dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.com; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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