Spartan football looked sharp during a scrimmage against Mount Vernon and Lynnwood on Saturday.
“Lots of energy; we came out and smacked both teams pretty good,” head coach Eric Keizer said. “We asked for high energy on the field and on the sidelines. We asked them to go full effort and not slow down. They did exactly that.”
It was a noticeable step forward from previous years, he said.
“Everything was smooth,” Keizer said. “It’s something I haven’t seen before in the program this early in the offseason.”
Keizer credits the early success to a series of changes in the program’s culture.
He brought in Bruce Brown, the founder of Proactive Coaching — a consulting firm that works with coaches and teams to help create character-based team cultures, to provide a blueprint for team leadership and develop competitors.
“We (coaches) have been struggling with how to shift the culture to where we want it to be,” Keizer said. “Sometimes you need to reach out and ask for help.”
Brown, a Camano Island resident, works with athletes, coaches, parents, school districts and corporations across the country, including the Vanderbilt baseball program, Oregon football program and UCLA football coach Chip Kelly.
Brown helped the Spartans develop their Core Covenants: Discipline, Desire, Love, Academics.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” Keizer said. “Everything we do falls under these Core Covenants.”
The Spartans kicked off spring practice diving head-first into this new approach. The revamped offseason plan saw the team forego its traditional camp at Central Washington University for a more intimate, Spartan-only camp at Warm Beach.
“Our long-time coaches said, hands down, that was the best thing this program has done,” Keizer said of the three-day local camp. “When you’re at these other camps, you’re on their time, they’re coaching your kids, they set the schedule. Whereas we had Friday, Saturday, Sunday to determine what we’re going to work on.”
The Spartans, including freshman who have traditionally not attended camp, worked on the field, in the classroom and with position groups, in addition to meeting and speaking with Brown about the culture changes.
“I think there were some breakthroughs,” Keizer said. “The kids said they got more out of three days at camp than during all of spring practice last year.”
After more practices this week, taking place at Port Susan Middle School while the high school stadium is under construction this summer, the Spartans will head to King’s High School for more scrimmages this weekend.
Keizer said the team still has room for more players.
“We’d like 10 to 15 more guys,” said Keizer, who is entering his fifth season as head coach. “We have a ‘Help Wanted’ sign for big dudes. Linemen. We need them.”
Meanwhile, he said it’s been great to see that many of the 60-70 Spartans at spring practice were committed to weight room work during the offseason or were multisport athletes.
Next month 23 Spartans and a handful of coaches will travel to the Houston area to train with Texas high schools.
“They’re going to see a different caliber of lifting, coaching, athletes,” Keizer said. “Maybe they’ll come back to Stanwood with a little bit of Texas in them saying, ‘We can do this 10 times better.’”
By the time fall practice starts on Aug. 21, the Spartans should be well positioned for a good season on and off the field, Keizer said.
“We want to use football as a tool to build character,” he said. “We’re building with these young men to have the right attitude so that, once they leave high school, they’re going to be good dudes in the workforce, good husbands, good fathers. We’re trying to build a good foundation for life.”
- Sept. 6 at Jackson*
- Sept. 13 vs. Marysville-Getchell
- Sept. 20 vs. Arlington
- Sept. 27 at Oak Harbor
- Oct. 4 at Marysville-Pilchuck
- Oct. 11 at Shorecrest
- Oct. 18 vs. Squalicum
- Oct. 25 at Ferndale
- Nov. 1 vs TBA 3A South team
* 5 p.m. start