When a team lacks high levels of success for as long as Spencer football has, the perception of the program, understandably, isn’t positive. Despite the talent the school produced in the sport in the 1960s and at points throughout the 70s, it is perceived as a doormat because it has failed to produce a winning season since 1976.
When first-time head coach Pierre Coffey took over the program, that was the first thing he wanted to address.
“Back in the 60s and 70s, Spencer was a football school,” he said. “We want to introduce the kids to the history of Spencer. There were guys who played here and went to the NFL. These guys didn’t know about Gary Downs or Otis Sistrunk or those guys. So we want them to see how rich the history really is.”
It’s about pride, Coffey said, and ownership. Building something that everyone wants to be a part of. Not just the players, but the coaches, parents, classmates and community.
That — and only that — will begin to change the culture of the program.
The good thing is, the players have expressed that hunger too, he said. Not just since he took over, but over the past two seasons in which they showed notable progress under former coach Calvin Arnold. The Greenwave went 5-5 in 2013 and slipped back to 3-7 last year, but had opportunities to make the playoffs in both seasons. That is the goal this year, Coffey said.
“They’ve been close, and that’s what our goal is,” he said. “Playoffs — that’s what we keep talking about.”
Coffey brings along with him a mentality and expectation of elite football. As an assistant at Carver for four years, he saw firsthand teams that had chances to contend for state championships.
He doesn’t see a whole lot of difference between his players with the Tigers and his new ones at Spencer.
“When you look at the kids, they are very similar,” he said. “These guys all want the same things. They’re hungry. They want to be good. Now it’s about getting your staff and the kids and the parents and the community to all buy into the same vision.”
Coffey has insisted upon his seniors attending a leadership academy at the school over the course of the summer. Every morning between 8 and 8:30, they discuss leadership, adversity and how to respond to difficult situations.
“To build leadership, you’ve got to build character,” Coffey said.
And pride. It hasn’t been easy, of course. Attempting to turn around a program that has been starved of success for as long as Spencer has is no small task.
But Coffey expresses excitement and confidence that he can continue the progress made under Arnold and help this program take the next step.
“When people think of Spencer football this year, I want them to think about discipline,” Coffey said. “We want to be hard-nosed, we want to be physical and fast. We want to compete in everything we do. The wins will take care of themselves. We just want to compete, whether it’s in a 7-on-7, a skills competition, lineman drills, whatever. We just want to compete.”