By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS – A few Cedar Rapids Jefferson football players showed up to collect their equipment for the first day of practice Monday.
The move didn't fly well with J-Hawks first-year head coach Brian Webb, because equipment checkout was at the end of last week.
"The kids and the families have known the schedule for two months," said Webb, who coached Carroll Kuemper to an 18-4 record in two season including 10-2 in 2011. "We don't just show up and think we're going to practice. Those days are done. Kids have to want to be here."
One of Webb's primary objectives at Jefferson is to promote accountability, strong work ethic and effort. Webb takes over a program that hasn't recorded a single victory since 2009, suffering 22 straight losses and 26 of its last 27 games. Jefferson hasn't had a winning record since going 9-1 in 2000.
The philosophy is to fix the culture off the field to improve the results on it. Wins might not be the most accurate measure of progress this season.
"It just comes down to accountability and responsibility, holding kids accountable for their effort level," Webb said. "We can provide the structure and framework to support success, but ultimately they have to make that decision to want to work hard."
Webb, a 32-year-old Cedar Falls native who played at University of Northern Iowa, has coached at a variety of levels, serving as an assistant at West Des Moines Valley from 2008-10, Spencer (2005-08), Dike-New Hartford (2000-03) and Cedar Falls (1998). He coached running backs and punters at NCAA Division II Saint Cloud State from 2003-05.
Last season, Webb was named District Coach of the Year, leading Kuemper to an unbeaten Class 2A District 2 title and advancing to the state quarterfinals.
He said a major task is changing habits and instilling the mindset that hard work has to be the foundation of the entire program. Without hard work, Webb said, the schemes and strategies in games can't be establish. The way to win games is through work during daily practice.
"For a lot of these kids right now, it's like drinking out of a fire hose," Webb said. "Everything's new to them. The kids that haven't been showing up this summer and it is new to them, they don't understand what they're doing. They'll have to learn in a hurry."
Webb is a self-described "tough love" coach with a reputation of being highly organized. The J-Hawks received an introduction during their first official practice of two-a-days at Kingston Stadium on Monday morning.
"Every drill is for a purpose," Jefferson senior Peter Watson said. "Everything's organized and fast-paced."
The J-Hawks continuously emphasized effort and work ethic during the opening practice. Webb made sure his points were getting across to the players.
"You're expected to do everything right, and do it 100 percent," Watson said. "If you weren't doing it right, you were on the sidelines running."
Webb noted progress has already been made with the number of players who participated in offseason lifting and speed and agility drills. He said the entire school is experiencing positive changes.
As things change, some remain the same. The hard-nosed and rough mentality that has long been associated with J-Hawk football will be important for success on the field.
"We have a lot of tough kids," Webb said. "That is a key component in football. To get kids to understand toughness aspect is both mental and physical. I think the mental has to come before the physical. We're getting there."