Savage

Football great teaching tool for young athletes

Published 11:50pm Saturday, August 30, 2014

The best aspect of covering local sports is watching young players grow and mature.

Because of summer league all-stars or other recreational activities, sports writers are gifted with watching athletes grow and prosper as human beings.

As I stood on the sidelines for Trinity’s home encounter against Centreville Friday night, I watched ninth grader Demond Fleming buckle his chinstrap and play on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game.

Before contributing to Trinity’s football product, I had the opportunity to coach Fleming when he was 8 years old in some Miss-Lou youth football action. A senior in high school, I, along with a few buddies of mine, decided to coach a little league team. We ended up winning the “Super Bowl” that year, but that was because we had the luck of the draft on our side — Fleming.

We taught basic fundamentals to the players, but during the game, our game plan was pretty simple — find ways to get Fleming the ball on the edge, so he can use his speed and agility to cut up and score. And boy did he do a lot of that, juking past foes. Week after week, Fleming lowered his shoulder pads to trampled over defenders and sidestepped his way to the end zone like a miniature Reggie Bush, I knew instantly Fleming was going to be a future star in the area.

Six years later, Fleming is playing at a much higher level. A member of the reigning MAIS Class A state champions, Fleming is one of several young players looking to help Trinity repeat last season’s success.

Unfortunately for Fleming, and the entire Trinity football team, the Saints ran into MAIS Class AA giant in Centreville, who went on to crush Trinity 51-24.

Fleming plays wide receiver and cornerback for the Saints, and in the second half, his number was called upon in a bigger role.

Fleming had the catch of the night, bobbling an overthrown ball and diving to secure the grab. I couldn’t help but crack a smile on the sideline, quickly reminiscing of watching Fleming’s athleticism take over those little league games years ago.

In the fourth quarter, Fleming switched to quarterback, where the majority of his offense consisted of designed quarterback draws. Fleming reeled off a 21-yard run followed by a 23-yard gain on a run that saw him bounce it to the outside and show off some nice cuts against Centreville’s second unit.

As the game ended, Fleming, like most of the Trinity players, hung his head in defeat. To any player that would listen, I begged them to keep their heads up.

Everyone wants to be good immediately, but that’s just not the case in sports, especially football. There’s a process that requires athleticism and experience to forge success. The Saints have the athleticism, but are lacking heavily in the experience department.

Trinity head coach Zach Rogel gave me one of the best quotes I’ve ever received after a game. The first-year head coach basically told me he doesn’t know how to win as a coach yet, and as a result, his team doesn’t know how to become victorious yet. But a day will come when these youngsters experience success and reap the benefits of experience. It just takes patience, and it takes the bumps that come along with putting a young product on the field.

Before you learn how to win, you must first learn how to lose. Don’t get me wrong — I anxiously await an older Fleming juking and jiving defenders in the coming years. However, I’m more excited about watching Fleming and his teammates grow and become men on the gridiron, translating success in the way they handle wins and losses rather than the way they run the ball between the tackles.

At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about, right?