To give his players a mindset that they are all in the same boat, should row with the same oars and make rapid adjustments, Mayflower coach Jed Davis put his players in the water.
In the middle of rapids.
After a trip to Nashville to participate in a 7-on-7 tournament this summer at Vanderbilt, Davis took a group of players and coaches whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River near the Tennessee-Georgia border (and a venue for the Atlanta Olympics).
“You learn a lot about team bonding when your offensive and defensive players have to work together to keep the boat afloat and when it tips over, you have to work together to get people out of the water,” Davis said.
“It was a blast,” said linebacker Jordan Graves. “We put football on the shelf for a day and just had fun.”
That’s one aspect of Davis’ coaching. He’s not afraid to go out of the box and provide his team challenging experiences, things the players might not be able to do on their own.
“Football wasn’t my biggest sport when I played it,” Davis said. “I hated to practice. Practice wasn’t fun for me. But football reaches more kids and teaches them how to compete. I decided when I became a football coach to do it my way and make it fun.”
“He recognizes hard work and when we get after it, but he always comes up with something fun to reward you when you do the work.” said Graves.
The rafting experience wasn’t the only fun/bonding part of summer for Mayflower’s players.
He took his players on a father-son retreat.
“The dads and their sons got to work together on a lot of things,” he said. “Then, we sat around a campfire and ask the dads to tell what they love about their sons and their sons what they love about their dads. It gets pretty emotional.”
Right before practice begins, Davis takes his team on a five-day “band of brothers” retreat near Malvern.
“I got that idea from the ‘Remember the Titans’ movie,” he said. “We take away their cell phones for a week and just concentrate on bonding with each other. We do some fun things. We do zip-lining and have different kinds of competitions and games where offensive and defensive players have to work together.”
He got some of the inspiration when he worked as an assistant to Ronnie Peacock, formerly the head coach at Harding University.
“He told me ‘don’t be afraid to try something,’” he said. “You know 20 years from now, these players may not remember a lot of wins and losses. But they will remember three days in the woods with their dads or five days doing different things in the ‘band of brothers’ camp with their teammates. That kind of stuff is priceless.”
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd)