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Coaching shuffle changing style

Overhaul of West Ranch coaching staff streamlining playbook at all levels

Posted: August 22, 2009 9:27 p.m.
Updated: August 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch head coach Sean O'Brien talks to the varsity players during practice Tuesday at West Ranch High. With 15 coaches in new positions, the Wildcats changed their approach at the freshman to varsity levels.

When Mike Kane stepped down as head coach of West Ranch football, it left the program without a leader for the first time since the Wildcats varsity first stepped on the field.

Insert former junior varsity head coach Sean O’Brien and 14 other members of the West Ranch staff in new positions.

Kane’s step away from the football team was not expected to lead to a mass exodus, but many other members of the Wildcats staff took Kane’s departure as a cue to move on with their football careers away from West Ranch.

While it left O’Brien with a lot of holes to fill, it also gave him the chance to streamline West Ranch’s program.

The Wildcats now run the same offensive and defensive systems at all three levels, which coaches hope will help the teams.

“The obvious bonus is that the kids are learning one way to play and sticking with it,” said West Ranch junior varsity head coach Mike Miller. “On top of that if we suffer an injury, and they are bound to happen, then we can just grab a kid from the freshman team, or the varsity can grab somebody from us.”

O’Brien and his staff have acclimated quickly to changes in position and additions to the program, which has an added difficulty because only two players on the varsity team have significant experience at the highest high school level.

“In a way it’s tough to have a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of time on the field, but on the flip side, we can kind of start clean,” O’Brien said. “It’s not that we are making huge alterations to how coach Kane ran things, but with so many changes on our staff we have the chance to set things up exactly the way we want it, and we were able to bring in some really great coaches and reward some of the guys who have been helping us out in a major way.”

O’Brien serves as the main link to the past. He was a member of the staff that started the West Ranch program when the school only had a freshman squad.

He then moved up to junior varsity and now looks to produce West Ranch’s first winning season, after the Wildcats finished 2-8 in 2008.

“Our entire coaching staff is really dedicated to being precise,” O’Brien said. “I’d say that’s the biggest thing we are working on. That, and we are really working on our connection with our players and the West Ranch community as a whole. I think the community as a whole has been amazing, and we are so grateful for everything they have done to support us. That’s one of the things I love most about working for this school. The people here are really what makes it special, and we want to pass it along to them.”

The sense of community is passed on to through the coaches and positive team atmosphere that O’Brien and his staff look to foster.

Even though the Wildcats only won two games last year, their camp has been filled with an upbeat attitude from top to bottom as the team looks to break through with its first winning season at any level.

“On the junior varsity we have 40 guys, and we stress that all of them are going to play for us,” Miller said. “As a coaching staff, we try to keep everybody involved because we know that’s important in a young program, but we know it is important for the players because we have a great group, and we know that we can build around these guys if they are all on the same page, which is where I think we are going.”

The change has been viewed as a positive by the West Ranch players as well.

The continuity has helped build continuity amongst all three teams.

“I think how we are doing things is a better way of building a program,” said senior running back Zak Snell. “We know everyone that’s playing here is on the same page and that everyone on the field is there because they want to be there.”

In O’Brien’s opinion the Wildcats have a staff in place that should be with the program for years to come with an H-back offense and 4-2-5 defense installed.

“In the past, coaches were kind of allowed to pursue whatever path they wanted to try win, but now we’re all on the same page, and now we’re more rigid,” O’Brien said. “I think that means that we can build a foundation with the players and a foundation that will lead to players building toward something.”


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