Braves’ coach introduces new, team-first attitude
No pads, no points, no problem.
That's the way Bonner Springs High School football coach Lew Kasselman approached this year's Braves' summer camp, anyway.
The week-long camp, which usually takes place in late July, opened Monday, July 25, with more than 50 prospective BSHS football players hitting the field in 97-degree heat to learn the ins and outs of the Bonner Springs program.
But as much as Kasselman would love to tell you that camp is about Xs and Os and formations and sets, he simply can't.
"We're starting all over," the veteran gridiron coach said. "We're out here to cover everything from the basics to the more advanced stuff. And we have to do it at a pace where everyone can understand it."
But only half of the burden of getting the players to understand falls on Kasselman's shoulders. The other half falls on the players themselves.
Kasselman said there's a fine line between teaching the players what they need to know and being too hard on them. And that line is not one Kasselman wants to, or can afford to, cross.
"This is totally voluntary," he said. "We can't make them be here. So it's not like a regular practice. We want to teach them some stuff and we have to install some discipline, but we want them to come back when practices start for real."
That day -- Aug. 15 -- is one of Kasselman's favorite days of the year. On that day he has his team and the promise of four months of football ahead of him. As for Kasselman's favorite day of the year, well that was Monday.
"This day's always the best day of the year," Kasselman said Monday. "It's the start of football season. I've been chomping at the bit all year, planning things and getting ready. Now it's time to go."
But "going" isn't quite as easy as it might seem. First of all, there's the matter of having to go slowly for the newcomers. That, combined with the unavoidable two-week break the team faces before Aug. 15, limits what Kasselman introduces in camp. As much as he'd like to think otherwise, it's just too much of a risk to ask 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to retain much information during the final two weeks of their summer.
Second of all, there's the concern about battling the heat.
In light of incidents like the one at the University of Missouri involving the promising young Tigers' football player, Aaron O'Neal, who recently passed away after collapsing during a MU football workout, Kasselman said taking care of the health of his players is a top priority at camp.
"We talked in the coaches meeting before camp about making sure we get the kids plenty of water and plenty of rest," Kasselman said. "As long as they get plenty of water and rest they'll be all right.
"But we also talk to the kids about being aware. If they feel tired or nauseated or like they can't go any more, they need to tell a coach so we can take care of it and get them a break. A lot of parents call us and tell us we're crazy for having camp or practice when it's this hot, but I say give us a little credit. We've been doing it a long time, and taking care of the kids is very important to us."
The campers were treated to cooler weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, but temperatures were expected to be back in the 90s as the camp wraps up on Thursday and Friday.
But by watching them, it's easy to see that Kasselman and his players don't care whether it's 100 degrees or 30. They're there to play football, and they're there to get a jump start on putting last year's disastrous 1-8 season behind them.
To do so, Kasselman introduced plans of focusing on the team, and only the team, from the beginning of camp to the end of the season.
"Everything is team this year," he said. "There are no individual honors, no stickers on the helmets. It's all about the team. We're not going to care about how many carries a guy has or how many tackles a guy makes. As long as it helps the team win, that's all that matters."