As Lift For Life Academy rings in the new school year, we also ring in the new football season with a team of many new freshman faces. Coach Gary Johnson is excited to see what his new team can do after having many of his key varsity players graduate last year. With many new freshmen on the field, Coach Johnson sees a lot of potential for the team.
“We lost about 90% of our offensive starters and about 80% of the defense, but we have around 25 freshmen this year, so we’re solid with the young guys. It’s exciting because they’ve been playing for the middle school team, so a lot of them are ready to go,” Coach Johnson said.
Coach Johnson tries to find valuable opportunities for his team to bond and to maximize their options for the future. Over the summer, the team has already competed in 7-on-7 tournaments, visited SIUC to watch a game, and participated in a full-contact camp. When the team is on a campus visit, the students are encouraged to talk the college players. Many students have noticed that they have similar backgrounds as the college players and realize that they are capable of playing for a college team as well.
“I use the football team as a tool for these kids to stay out of trouble and get focused on their futures,” said Gary.
The players know that their academics come before their athletics. Students must maintain at least a healthy GPA to be on the team, and they hold each other accountable for their grades. Coach Johnson’s goal for the team is to have the older students act as role models for the younger students.
“You hear the guys asking if they finished their homework and have their stuff ready for class,” said Coach Johnson. “There’s a lot of comradery there.”
“Less talking, more doing,” is what Coach Johnson tells his senior players. Leading by example is how they will influence the younger players to stay out of trouble and on track in life. Whether it’s showing tough love or giving warm encouragement, the team is a community in which players help and support one another.
“That feeling of accepting responsibility for others—that’s what ultimately makes you feel accomplished when they achieve something,” said Coach Johnson.
With the school year quickly approaching, Coach Johnson is eager to make this football season another great one. He knows just how vital support and encouragement are for his team, so he urges everyone to come to a game and see the tremendous work these players have been doing.
“If a student gets support, they will appreciate that and will draw energy and drive to succeed,” said Gary.
The first game is Friday, August 19 at 7pm at Bishop DuBourg. We hope to see you all there!