Monday, 09 April 2012 01:38

2010 Coach of the Year

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Rusty Markland Loudoun County War Eagles
In another surprising turn of events, the The GYFL goes against the grain and unveils a shocker.  I don't know if anybody could have seen this coming.  But, think about it.  Does winning a championship always mean you are the best coach?  That is a rhetorical question.  We have seen many teams win championships because the talent was superior.  Coaching is certainly paramount, but just winning a championship does not necessarily mean that you did the best coaching job.  Just like having a losing record doesn't mean that you are not a good coach.  Some coaches like Phil Jackson won't even coach teams that don't have the best players on the planet already there.  He has the most championships, but would he be able to win with the Cleveland Cavaliers of 2011.  I don't think so.
We looked at more than just winning a championship.  When we first talked to Rusty about coming on board, many kids in Loudoun County didn't think they would win a game in this league.  Some of the parents were afraid to let their kids go across that bridge and play against what was considered to be the best talent in the area, bar none.  In Loudoun County, Stonebridge is the king and they play great football.  But, it doesn't get the noteriety of the WCAC and the MIAA.  All they hear about is DeMatha, Good Counsel, Gilman, St. Johns, etc., etc.  After a while, people begin to read the press clippings and so did many of the Loudoun faithful.  They were excited to play and wanted the experience, but quite honestly, many of the parents just wanted their kids to come home in one piece (LOL).
Coach Rusty would always tell us, "we'll be lucky of we win a game against those guys!  But, I can tell you one thing, WE WILL SHOW UP!"  Well guess what, they did more than show up.  See, Rusty may have been playing coy with us, but he was preaching an entirely different tune to those kids.  Not only did Rusty work their butts off to make sure that even if they weren't the biggest, fastest, or strongest, they would most certainly be the toughest!  This award was not about winning.  It was about coaching, and the coaching doesn't start on game day, it starts on the practice field.  What many people don't realize is that Rusty had his kids doing 2 a day practices in the spring time to get ready for GYFL.  He had his own mini-camp.  He went above and beyond the call of duty and far beyond what we expected.  He knew he was going to have to make those kids tough if they were going to represent Loudoun County, and they had a chip on their shoulder, with something to prove.  Boy, did they earn respect for Loudoun County football.  "If you don't know, now you know!"
They were not going to be the quickest or the fastest, but they would be as quick and as fast as they could possibly be.  They would be organized.  They would be well coached.  They would be prepared.  They would study film.  They would mentally tough.  They would play to their strengths.  They would focus on every facet of the game, including the kicking game, which most coaches don't even practice.  Will Pendergrast was phenomenal and Loudoun won the Southern Maryland game on his foot.  Larry Jenkins had the kid ready for showtime and he delivered the game winning field goal. 
They were balanced on offense and tough as nails on defense.  They played as a team and didn't have any superstars.  They played for each other.  Aaron Crawford, one the star DT's father got gravely ill during the season and was in the hospital in dire straits.  Rusty got the kids to rally around Aaron and dedicated the Southern Maryland game on emotion. 
They started out 0 - 2 and it looked like Rusty may have been right about them not winning a game.  They only had 2 elite players.  QB Will Hollister is the real deal and his father Randy is one of the most wonderful men we have ever met.  Will is a big time basketball player who was an AAU star in the Loudoun area.  He initially had no intention on playing QB for the War Eagles.  The problem was that they practiced at the school where his father is the Headmaster.  Loudoun Country Day School is our Loudoun County Regional Headquarters and after a couple of weeks of Will watching them practice, he decided he had enough and needed a helmet.  He decided to split his summer between AAU basketball and GYFL.  Had he played in every game, there is not telling how good Loudoun would have been.
Troy Vincent Jr. is one of the best youth football players we have ever seen and he was only able to play in 3 games.  It would have been scary to see this team at full strength for 6 weeks.  Troy Jr missed the first game that they lost.  His gamebreaking speed could have made a difference.  Will missed the second game that they lost.  Without him at the helm, Loudoun had no balance and couldn't match points with the DC All Stars, so they started out 0 - 2 and it did not look good.  I can't repeat everything that Rusty and his staff said to those kids because I don't want to reveal his secrets.  I can tell you this.  The coach of the year did what great coaches do and he motivated!  Boy did he motivate.  If any of you want to be exposed to true passion, true emotion, and true grit.  Make your way out to Loudoun Country Day School for a Loudoun County War Eagle practice, or sneek down and try to listen to the halftime speech at a Loudoun County game this summer.  It is worth the price of admission.
Rusty pulled those kids together, pulled his coaches together, and rallied those kids.  He MADE them believe, and they found a way to win the last 4 games in a row and participated in a tie breaker to see if they would be in the championship!  Rusty pulled off a miracle, but he didn't do it alone.  He put together an amazing staff.  Robert Jackson, Larry Jenkins, Coach Keane, and the rest of that staff was second to none.  His team mom Doreen Wolfley needs to write a book on the "Art of Team Mom."  She is that good!
When you coach youth football, it is about so much more than the X's and the O's.  It is so much more than about winning the championship.  The trophy is the goal for all of our coaches and it should be coveted.  But, when it comes time to select the GYFL coach of the Year every year, remember that we will always evaluate more than just the winning.  By the way, Rusty is one heckuva GM too, but all of our GM's were so special and had to endure so much, that there is no way we could have picked a GM of the Year this year.  Maybe next year.
Congratulations Rusty and the War Eagle Staff!  Good luck in season #2.
Go War Eagle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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