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Schools of Thought: Johnstown football regrouping

December 17, 2012
By MIKE ZUMMO ( , The Leader Herald

Accountability was a word thrown around quite a bit at Thursday night's Johnstown football meeting at the old Immaculate Conception Church Hall.

Who's going to be held accountable for the way they program has struggled in recent history? Coaches? Apathetic players and parents? How can out-of-district coaches keep tabs on their players in the high school when they're not physically present?

These are some of the questions that were aired at Thursday night's meeting, and at the moment, there is no answer.

After the cancellation of the final four games of the 2012 varsity season, Johnstown varsity coach Matt Benton called a meeting with parents and alumni to outline his goals and get feedback on ways to improve the program and get it back on stable footing.

The lack of numbers were startling as the program lost a third of its players from level to level, and numbers dropped so low that by the end of Week 4, the Sir Bills were no longer able to suit up for the game. However, even coaches admitted Thursday night that most of the varsity players for 2012 weren't ready to play at that level.

They weren't big enough, fast enough or strong enough.

If the Sir Bills are going to be able to take the field next fall, they're going to have to be ready to hang with the competition. That means more time in the weight room. Benton said attendance has been better but how that translates to 2013 still remains to be seen.

Will it be enough? And if it isn't, who's accountable? Coaches? Players? Parents? Or is it, choice D, all of the above?

The workouts aren't mandatory. They can't be under state rules. They are, however, encouraged. Players can't be made to go by their parents as one coach suggested. They can be highly encouraged to go, but it still has to be the player's choice. Someone needs to find a way to make them want to go.

I'm sure they've all heard the usual speeches from the coaches about how working out in the preseason will help them secure more playing time. That reasoning will ring a little hollow on a team with 19 players.

There may not be a harder-working player to take that player's place. It's hard to hold a player accountable by benching him when you don't have anyone to take his place.

The only true way to hold players accountable is to have more of them. Benton's target of 25 to 28 players isn't a bad-sized team for a school Johnstown's size. Broadalbin-Perth has been hovering around that number of varsity players for the last several years.

On a larger team, the players that attend offseason workouts will have an edge over those that don't when August comes around. More players means healthier competition in practice, which will lead to improvement.

Improvement is the best remedy for Johnstown's football program. Schools in their Sir Bills' own division have turned around almost overnight. Schalmont did it a few years ago.

I'm not saying the Sir Bills are suddenly going to compete for a sectional title when they return, but if they string a few victories together in 2013, it could get the ball rolling, as long as improvement continues into 2014.

Right now, the Johnstown football program is at its lowest point. It can be competitive again, but everyone has to do the work: players, coaches and even parents to a degree.

The trickiest part of this recovery is bringing the numbers up. Should they rise, they can be made bigger, stronger and faster.

They're going to have to be bigger, faster and stronger because if they're not, things won't change.

If things don't change, somehow, everyone involved is going to have to be accountable.



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