By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
Dean Eychner took over as head coach of a struggling Brandon High (Fla.) football team in 2012 knowing full well the program needed an overhaul. Four years later, that overhaul appears well under way.
Eychner’s record speaks for itself. The Brandon High football program has seen nothing but progress since he took over as head coach.
The Eagles went 1-9 in 2012, 3-7 in 2013, 7-3 in 2014 and 9-2 in 2015. Last year’s team was the first Brandon squad to win a postseason game since 1985. The Eagles’ season ended in the FHSAA Class 6A regional semifinals with a loss to Armwood.
“We’re not satisfied with that,” Eychner said. “We want to take another step, but that was our first playoff win in 30 years.”
Upon accepting the head coaching position in 2012, Eychner took the long view, recognizing sustainable success is rarely achieved overnight. He asked more of his players under the premise that consistent improvement would come only with an increased commitment.
“I think any coach has to have a vision of what he wants to ideally accomplish to put a stamp on the program,” Eychner said. “I don’t think you can entirely anticipate everything that’s going to come up – all of the challenges you’ll encounter.”
Because Eychner was taking over a program that had grown accustomed to losing, the players and coaching staff welcomed his vision to change the collective culture. Eychner laid out a recipe for what he believed would make for a winning program.
“I think one of the great things was we had to raise the bar on our level of expectations and our level of trust in the players,” Eychner said. “If they put in the effort and have the attitude and toughness it takes to play this game, they will be successful. You can continue to sell and believe that. Until you overcome the disappointments, it can be difficult. There were some long evenings.”
Eychner started to believe his team was on the brink of something special in 2013 – despite the fact that the team won only three games. A handful of the team’s seven losses came down to the final possession.
“When difficulties come up, there will be doubters,” Eychner said. “We believed in the group of guys and stuck with them.”
The Strength Program
Eychner established his expectations for his players through the strength and conditioning program, which is led by assistant coach James Grant.
Eychner said the players learned the importance of being prompt, prepared and present through the offseason program.
“Much of the strength and conditioning program is James Grant’s design,” Eychner said. “A quality strength and conditioning coach can foster character in football. Too many kids out there haven’t been built to withstand the rigors of the sport. It’s a void in football.”
Eychner and his staff maintain meticulous records tracking the players’ attendance and progress. Since the Brandon coaches started tracking each player’s commitment level, they have noticed improved attendance and marked strength gains.
“They have to believe it’s worth their time,” Eychner said. “There has to be a measure of consistency and balance in the program. Kids have to understand: We start at this time. We’re going to do this workout for this result. We’ll end at this time. If that occurs and the staff is committed to helping the players through the difficulties, the commitment takes off.”
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Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.