Coaching high school football in the 1990s is as different from, say, two decades ago, as the run-and-shoot or power-I are from the T formation.
Veteran county coaches agree that modern home life, the many diversions kids have, and softer discipline and red tape policies of a changing education system have contributed to a new generation of coaches and players.
Old Mill's rookie coach Mike Marcus, promoted after assisting Pete Regala for 11 years, asked his summer weightlifting group of 45 players how many ate dinner with their parents at least three times a week?
"Only six kids raised their hands," said Marcus, one of eight new coaches at 15 football-playing schools (12 public, three private) in the county since 1995. "It's a sign of the times. When I played at Old Mill, my parents came to all of my games, and we ate dinner together practically every night."
Marcus pointed out that today, with more single-parent families or both parents working, family dinners have become a thing of the past.
He believes his players crave the family atmosphere on the field.
"We're a pretty tight group at Old Mill as a result," says Marcus, who is also one of four non-teaching county coaches -- another change. Meade's Mark Frye, Severn's John Beckman and Archbishop Spalding's John Moscato are the others.
Dave Summey, who is in his 10th year coaching at South River and 20th overall in the county, became the dean of Anne Arundel coaches this fall following the retirements of Andy Borland (25 years, Severna Park) and Dave Rigot (21 years, Glen Burnie).
"We present our team as a family," says Summey. "We preach unity and sticking together and how important it is to put the team's [family] best interests first.
"Society in general is not as committed. As a result, some of our kids aren't."
Chuck Markiewicz, who led North County to a state title in 1994 and is in his ninth year at the Ferndale school and 12th overall as a head coach, agrees.
"The commitment we had at North County when I first started is not there now," says Markiewicz. "We put up with more [being late, absent, academically ineligible, etc.] than we would have years ago, because we understand all the distractions kids have today."
Chesapeake coach Tom Kraning, in his 11th year there and 18th overall, says, "We parents have made the kids different. They have more choices and don't need athletics."
The era of technology, with pagers, the Internet, e-mail and the like, prompts kids to be more interested in having money in their pockets, so they get jobs. Football players want a car and/or have a girlfriend. Thus, football is not a priority.
"We're not losing athletes to other sports. The lack of interest in sports in general is very noticeable at our school," says Annapolis' coach Roy Brown, who has been there 10 years and was an assistant to Al Laramore for 10 years before the latter's death in 1989.
"I see a lot of kids at Annapolis with athletic ability not playing anything, because there so many other things to do. But the kids who do play really want to, enjoy it, and are committed. That's why I'm still coaching."
Brown played at Arundel and Western Maryland College before getting into teaching physical education and coaching the last 28 years in the county. He came up at a time when coaches such as Laramore used the "in-your-face," hands-on approach.
"That will never work again," says Brown. "People on the street say that's bad, while the educators say its good."
Bill Zucco, a teacher/coach for 33 years in the county system, the last seven as Arundel's coach, drew this comparison:
"Things are a lot different," said Zucco. "Twenty or 30 years ago, the coaches were a lot tougher and could get away with things they can't today. We never gave them water breaks. If a kid asked for a break, everybody called him a sissy. Nowadays, you have to give them four or five."
Broadneck's 10-year coach Jeff Herrick also remembers those days as a former player in the '70s under the late Jerry Mears, Buddy Hepfer and Zucco at Arundel.
"They gave us salt tablets and no such thing as water breaks and guidelines we have to follow now," said Herrick. "But I learned a lot from those guys, and 50 percent of what I do now, I learned from Buddy.
RTC "I believe some kids need [in-your-face tactics] -- not everybody -- but some. It helps them develop as a person. In the athletic realm, you can still put your foot down, discipline, and suspend a player on the spot if you have to."
Herrick points out it is not as easy to discipline in the classroom.
"In the '90s everything has to be in writing," says Summey. "Coaches have to word and write everything explicitly, and we basically have a student/athlete contract they have to sign before they can play. When I first started, there were a few basic rules."
And fewer problems -- with more support from the top.
"It isn't worth it today to fight the system. You hold back, because you know you won't be backed up," said Brown.
So, why do these guys stay around and draw lines of candidates when they leave?
To a man, it boils down to they "love working with kids."
Pub Date: 9/04/98