MENTORING & ADVICE

Texas champion coach: Make the best of it

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Part of leading a team in the “new normal” is accepting that things will be different this school year. The sooner the coaches and players embrace it, the sooner they can appreciate that some football is better than no football.

Canadian High (Texas) coach Chris Koetting has a formula for winning year after year in the most competitive high school football environment in the country. He has established a winning culture to the tune of a 128-17 career record (.882 winning percentage) and two state championships (2014, 2015). The last thing Koetting wants for his program is a disruption from the norm.

Enter 2020.

‘CHERISHING EVERY PRACTICE’

Like so many coaches in the country, Koetting lost his entire spring program due to the pandemic. His team returned to action in September well before Koetting and his staff felt comfortable that they had laid the standard groundwork to embark on a championship season.

“We talk to our kids a lot about how this is not going to be a normal year,” Koetting said. “It’s not like it always has been. We may have guys get sick. We may miss games with teams in quarantine. We’ve got to be very adaptable to any situation. The fact is kids are cherishing every practice and every game. It’s a different season, but not necessarily a bad one.”

BE THANKFUL’

As a Division 2 team in Texas, Koetting’s Canadian squad opened on the first Friday in September. The Wildcats went 2-1 in their first three games before having the third game cancelled due to an opposing player’s COVID infection.

“You take it day by day,” Koetting said. “Be thankful for every practice and game you get to play. Really, it’s been pretty good. It’s been close to a normal season, which is better than we expected.”

Koetting and his staff spent the spring season connecting with players over Zoom meetings after the shutdown. He also used an app to provide daily workouts to players. He was encouraged by the number of players that remained engaged with the offseason program.

“That was a positive,” Koetting said. “The kids did a good job of that. I don’t think it affected team chemistry. It was hard to keep track of everybody, but our coaching staff did a good job of reaching out to the kids.”

‘BACK TO NORMAL’

Canadian resumed strength and conditioning workouts on June 10, and Koetting was surprised by the gains his players made during the stay-at-home period.

“It was back to normal,” Koetting said. “The kids were in good shape.”

Canadian preseason workouts started on Aug. 5, and the team has had only one COVID case over the last 15 weeks.

“You could tell the kids were really excited when they found out we were able to play in the fall,” Koetting said. “There are a lot of protocols to abide by, but the kids have done a good job with that. If all you focus on is the kids, I feel like we’re as prepared as we’ve always been. It’s remarkable how well they’ve done.”

If anything, Koetting says the team’s early-season loss was more painful for him than ones in previous seasons because he has seen the way in which the players have persevered in the face of adversity.

“It was tough losing a game because the next week’s game was cancelled,” Koetting said. “I don’t want these kids to go a two-week stretch without a win. We’re trying to make the best of it, and I’m following their lead.”

The Koetting Corner

Name: Chris Koetting

Team: Canadian High (Texas)

Career record: 128-17

State championships: 2014, 2015

Team start date: Sept. 4

Outlook: “We’ve played well so far. We’re trying to make the best of it, and the kids definitely want to play this fall.”