ST. MARYS — New Camden High School football coach Bob Sphire is known for his innovative offensive schemes, but changes planned for the program go far beyond play on the field.
He outlined his plans for the program Monday during a speech at the St. Marys Kiwanis Club.
“It’s going to be a real culture change when it comes to the style of play,” he said. “It’s been the same basic program the past 19 to 20 years. We have a lot of work to do.”
Last year, Sphire said the Wildcats threw the ball 29 times the entire season, where the team had a 2-7 season.
“We’ll probably throw that many times in the first half,” he said. “It’s a culture change, and it will happen with reps.
Right now, players are still learning to run routes and catch the ball.
“It’s a matter of experience,” he said.
It’s not just the Wing-T offense that will be scrapped, he said. The defense is also undergoing a major change to a 3-4 defense designed to pressure the quarterback every play.
“I saw a static football team (last year),” he said. “It can’t be a stagnant defense.”
In many instances, the team’s problems were self-inflicted.
It’s not just the game scheme on both sides of the ball that has been changed.
Sphire said about half the coaching staff is new, with some accepting jobs at other schools, while others simply were not asked to return to the sidelines. He has hired new coaches, including his strength coach from North Gwinnett.
The entire weight room has been revamped, with all the old equipment sold to other schools.
“It was a great facility but the equipment was outdated,” he said. “The efficiency (in the new weight room) is ramped up.”
After he took over the program in February, Sphire said he began the culture change that touches all aspects of the program.
Players focused on weight training in January and February, with speed training in March. Spring and summer practices helped prepare the team for the upcoming season, with prescribed rest periods built into the plan. He expressed confidence players will improve if they follow the plan.
“We’ve got this figured out,” he said.
For the players, he emphasizes what he calls the “pillars of the program.” They are expected to respect and trust one another, have a positive impact on teammates, dominate their opponents, be responsible and act like champions.
“We want to dominate our opponents,” he said. “There is nothing to be ashamed of dominating the guy across from you every snap.”
Another major change is the chaotic scene in past years after games, where many people in the grandstands come onto the field. That will no longer be allowed, he said.
Parents will also have limited access to the coaching staff and the decisions about the positions where their children play. In fact, he said he doesn’t return phone calls from parents who complain.
“We’ve had way too much parental involvement,” he said. “We don’t coach mom and dad.”
Instead, Sphire is asking parents to trust in a system that has generated 285 wins for high school teams he has coached.
“We’re going to give our kids the best chance to be successful,” he said. “We’re not going to shy away from what we are.”
Sphire said community and booster support needs to increase.
“It’s not nearly as big as it should be,” he said.
Sustained support, such as when employees at Gilman Paper Co. donated $1 a week from their paychecks to support the team, will help. Local businesses, for example, may sign on as sponsors for touchdowns, sacks and other big plays during the games.
“There are lots of opportunities for local businesses to sponsor,” he said.
His goal is to restore the program to the national prominence it held last decade, when the Wildcats won three state championships.
“Camden County is already a national program with a national mindset,” he said. “We’re going to see some struggles. I know it’s not going to be easy.”
Despite the challenges ahead, Sphire said he wants the game to be fun for players and fans. He emphasizes to players three things: stay loose, go reckless and score now.
“We’re going to try to score every play,” he said. “Winning will take care of itself.”