Coachable moment

Ranburne head coach Stephen Bailey addresses his varsity players after Monday's practice.

The first thing you notice about what Ranburne head coach Stephen Bailey calls his four quarters drill is that it’s very loud.

It’s the first day of practice for the Ranburne junior varsity players, and Bailey and his staff are using the drill to send a message to the future of Ranburne football.

As soon as the whistle blows the coaches erupt, yelling at the top of their lungs like a group of dueling drill sergeants. For the most part, the words they are saying are actually encouraging, but the staccato sentences are punctuated with the word “You” in way that makes the commands seem not so friendly.

“You better not stop!”

“Don’t you quit on me!”

“You better sprint!”

By the end of the drill, which encompasses four stations of intense 1-minute exercises that each player must do four times each, the middle schoolers are moving like their legs are made of a newly discovered mixture of lead and jello. At least one kid puked. And all of them are certainly questioning their life choices on a day when the heat index rose above 100 degrees.

When it mercifully ends Bailey allows the players to get water and then gathers them around for a post-practice talking to.

The tone of this speech stands in stark contrast to the non-stop barking that just took place.

“That drill has absolutely nothing to do with your skills as a football player,” he tells them calmly. “What was that drill about?”

One kid gets the answer right, and Bailey extends a finger toward that player as the coach reiterates the word he was waiting to hear.

“Discipline,” he says. “Doing what you’re supposed to do even when you feel like quitting.”

The junior high players got their first lesson in discipline at that Monday practice, but to hear Bailey talk about the 2019 varsity squad, it’s pretty clear they have long since taken that message to heart.

“I like their attitude so far. I like their energy and work ethic,” Bailey said. “Everybody’s come down with a positive mindset, working together to get better. Seems like they’re growing closer as a group. That seems like the most positive thing.”

Bailey then makes a statement that stands in stark contrast to the drill that just took place moments earlier. But it’s a statement that is backed up by the fact that he sent his varsity players to the locker room as soon as the final offensive play was rehearsed.

“I’m not a big run-after-practice kind of guy,” Bailey said. “If we do what we’re supposed to during practice we’re getting a lot of conditioning. I’ve always told them if they do what they’re supposed to throughout the drills and run on and off the field, things like that, all that extra stuff isn’t going to be necessary.”

If they do what they’re supposed to do. Discipline. That’s the message.

Ranburne has talent. Linebacker Gunner Hollis has five scholarship offers on the table, including D-I offers from Army and Air Force. Running back Christian Smith ran for over 1,000 yards last year and is primed to do so again. The defense is largely intact from a year ago and has required relatively little attention in practice.

A mostly-new offensive line, a talented but new quarterback and a rash of dropped passes by the receivers are hurdles that Bailey must overcome before his team starts the season in two and a half weeks.

The effort is there, Bailey reiterates. But the know-how is sometimes lagging behind.

“In the spring our effort was really good, we just didn’t do it real well. Same thing here. Our effort’s been really good every day. We just got to make sure we know which way we’re going,” Bailey said.

Once that happens he’ll know any poor execution that crops up during the season will fall under that discipline column.

And based on the four quarters drill that took place for the younger group on Monday, those varsity players are probably well motivated to not let that happen.

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