Ged Kates has been a high school football coach for 19 years and admits that everything he’s done has been a result of borrowing ideas, concepts or philosophies from other coaches.
He’s not alone. That’s how it works in this industry.
However, there is something to be said for giving an old concept new life. While most Fort Worth and Dallas area Class 5A and 6A programs must wait another week to begin work for the 2017 season, Kates and his Richland squad don’t have to.
The Rebels begin Aug. 7. They didn’t have spring football. Richland is the only team in Northeast Tarrant County starting fall camp. It will be helmets and shorts Monday-Thursday. Players are allowed to wear pads Friday.
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For years, the University Interscholastic League has given schools the option. If they want to have spring football, they will have one less week and can only scrimmage once in August. For those who bypass spring football, they have the extra week and can play two scrimmages.
Starting his sixth season at Richland, Kates takes this approach year to year. The Rebels have begun early for consecutive Augusts.
“For the first four years, I had kids and coaches being a little worn down by it,” said Kates, who also didn’t go through spring football in his two years at Fort Worth Arlington Heights. “It was a law of diminishing returns. Plus, I’m a huge proponent of kids playing other sports. If you’re not on the baseball team, then you’re on the track team. I just didn’t want to grind them into submission.”
Maybe the real reason Kates did it was because of plain ol’ superstition. Last year, the Rebels enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history in 2016. They shared the District 8-5A championship, won their first playoff game since 1984 and finished 10-2.
As Kates deliberated changing from the mainstream in 2016, he sought other perspectives. He went to Denton Ryan head coach Dave Henigan, who also doesn’t go through spring. It came down to two factors: toughness and expectations.
Toughness would be revealed through the first scrimmage. Expectations of having a season that lasted into December would mean this team would be fresher. The Raiders, a traditional power, were in the 5A Division I state semifinals in 2016 and 6A Division I state quarterfinals in 2015. Those games were played in December.
Richland’s first scrimmage is against Ryan. Its second is against Garland Lakeview Centennial.
“Once they went early, Dave said he would never go back,” Kates said. “What we’re hoping to do is emulate what they’re doing is playing into December.”
With no spring came adjustments. Richland started offseason football skills work in February rather than March. Strength and agility work never changed. During the spring football months of April and May, Kates said a majority of his players came in for voluntary workouts. He also had the chance to visit other schools and see how other coaches ran their programs. Hence, he can borrow.
“Really, you have to determine what’s best for you,” Kates said. “I know there are a lot of kids who are excited to get going on Aug. 7 and cannot get more up for putting on a helmet and getting on the field.”
Rebel history: Arguably the most decorated recruit to come through Richland, senior linebacker DaShaun White ended his recruitment process on Sunday when he verbally committed to Texas A&M. White, who held 20 offers including UCLA, Colorado, Baylor and Arkansas, zeroed in on the Aggies in the closing weeks. White had said he wanted to make his decision before the high school football season started. With Richland starting Monday, he just beat the deadline.