1-Do you think getting to play this spring will help the team come the 2021 season?
Of course, playing this Spring will help us in the 2021 Fall season. We were able to get quality reps for a number of young players, some coaches were able to step into their roles, and the resilience shown is something we can surely carry into the future of our program. Missing the weight room for 12 months really hurt us, but it also showed kids how valuable being able to lift is. I believe this can serve as a means to substantiate the need for weight room development and upgrades.
2-What was the hardest thing about playing the spring schedule?
The hardest thing about playing this spring schedule was the lack of building access. My car became a mobile locker room and smelled like a stinky foot. Kids had to play the 1s and 2s in the bushes and I’m not talking about turntables. Mother Nature treated us like an ugly ex-boyfriend, so we found ourselves practicing in parking lots and running laps on ice-covered tracks. We practiced in 30-degree weather, and if it rained we were SOL. We watched film, if we could, on a patch of grass outside the building connected to a bipolar extension cord that worked when it wanted. The love of the game however brought us out full-go, and we are better because of it. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.
3-If you could change one thing about the Philadelphia Public School league what would it be?
I honestly wouldn’t change anything about our league because the system is designed to work. However, like with any structure, loopholes get exploited and the culture of our league suffers. It has become very top-heavy because of this and in order to win, most feel they have to play “the game.” I pride myself on doing things the right way no matter the outcomes because young people are watching. I do not go by a win-at-all-cost mantra because a win to me is defined by coaching the entire kid and not simply the athlete. Championships are just icing on the cake and a byproduct of taking care of the small things. I suppose that if our league focused more on taking care of the small things, they too would find more success. But what do I know; I am only a second-year Head Coach in only my 5th season of coaching in total.
4- I was able to cover 12 games this fall in the Philly area and first hand I was able to learn that the schools and the area they play in were not as bad as so many said. What must the schools do to get fans and/or media to start giving them more attention?
Philly is one of the largest cities in America, with one of the largest school districts countrywide. We have some of the most desolate and underserved neighborhoods, but one thing is common about our young people and their counterparts: they all want to better their lives. When you have environments that are opportunity stricken and dysfunctional, the children are more prone to adopting nefarious ethics and morals. In the end, these kids want nothing more than to be good people, they just don’t always know-how. Much of their existence is about survival, so nice people are seen as vulnerable and get taken advantage of. What you experienced in our football community was the change that most of us are committed to, but we are oftentimes defined by our bad apples. The lack of media attention lends to hearsay and uncontrolled social media narratives governing the thoughts of outsiders rather than cold-hard-facts, so thank you for coming out to see for yourself.
I propose a media day here in Philly similar to how the NCAA conferences do them. Each team brings up to four ambassadors, and they do promo, interviews, matchups, and information is provided. Character is a huge recruitment component, and having solid media coverage will show what you, fortunately, found out for yourself about our beloved city and its amazing young people.
5- Which coach/school do you look forward to coaching against the most each season?
The team with walking Tacos at their concession stand is the team I look forward to facing each season. I love them, especially with Cool Ranch Doritos. If Walking Tacos is on your menu, you are my rival, and I want to play you every week. Sometimes my concession stand has walking Tacos, so maybe I will scrimmage if I have to. Lol. All jokes aside, I am too early in my career for rivalries, and our city quite honestly could do without them for some time. With social media in a large city, they have a tendency to go too far. Football is about humility and sportsmanship, and that can get lost when things become bitter and spill over into the streets.
6- What is the cost of a ticket to get into a regular-season game in your league?
I believe our tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students, but if you have on a good pair of sneakers and can hop over or climb under an 8-foot fence quickly it’s free, or so I’m told.
7- What are your thoughts on players playing more than one sport?
I believe in lifting and developing muscular maturity for any sport. I am developing a culture for lifting and have figured out how to get high school players of all grade levels to pump iron. It develops toughness and prevents injury. I believe that you get better at football more so by musculoskeletal development than scheme and simply playing a bunch of football. If the teams they wish to play for had the same or similar philosophies, then I am more than open. But if their idea of development is simply through repetition then I question whether multi-sports are beneficial in their future in football.
8- http://Hudl.com is a great place for college coaches to see highlights and stats on players. How often do you guys as a staff update stuff there? Or do you leave this up to the players?
I am big on the use of HUDL and am a huge fan of HUDL assist and Sideline for recruitment and scouting purposes. Not everyone is on board with this just yet because to be a fan of these services, you must first value the use of statistics and analytics. We use HUDL as a staff on a weekly basis, and we teach our players how to watch the film with a purpose. We use the play tools and practice scripts regularly. Our players are taught to make highlights and encouraged to post them often to their Twitter accounts.
9- How often do you guys watch the film and do your players have the means to watch them on their own?
As a team, we watch film weekly, but players and their coaches are encouraged to review or scout as often as possible. We often film practice, so that is helpful for review and we also post drills and assignments as a video function because many of our players are visual learners.
10- All-star games seem to be a great way for many players to get noticed especially those who seem to fall through the cracks. Do you think the players in your league are given a fair chance to be part of those games?
I have fortunately taken advantage of the All-Star games throughout the state has had a player selected to the Big 33 game in only my first season as Head Coach. I also have two players currently selected to the East/West Game this coming year, so I value it tremendously. I also take advantage of our local All-Star games as well. I do believe the opportunities to get kids into the games are fair, which is all I can ask for. Some coaches are just unaware of what is required, hence the need for a solid Media Day in our area. Due to the time in which All-Star games occur, I do not believe that they help much if a player has fallen. In my experience, by the time of the All-Star game many players have checked out of the recruitment process because they are slated to graduate a month later and are more so focused on their futures after high school. I do believe that if there were underclassmen combine attached to the All-Star games, more college coaches would be attracted to the game itself and there would be more recruitment opportunities in general for our area.
Malik A. Jones