Fenley hits the field with local high school football coaches

For Greensborosports.com from Bryan Fenley UNCG Department of Communications and WXII NBC Weekend Sports Producer……..

Grimsley Football Coach
Damon Coiro

The Grimsley football team

He’s young and has a wealth of knowledge,. He’s strong-willed and a leader. Grimsley High School Head Football Coach Damon Coiro sees big strides for his 2011 Whirlies team. Coiro and his 4A Metro League squad expect the upcoming season to be like night and day when compared to last—in which they won just a single game.

The second-year coach acknowledges that the football program has gone through many coaching changes. The school has had four head coaches in five years.

It’s hard to establish a team identity with all the changes, Coiro says.

Changes aside, with a full season under his belt, the coach looks to do things a lot differently now.

“Expect us to be much better this year and much improved in a lot of different aspects…we’re putting a better product on the field.” For this upcoming season, he mentions the team’s attitude has dramatically shifted from a year ago. “They’re bringing a hunger to the table that I haven’t seen. They’re bringing a different kind of energy a lot more raw-raw …they’re going to walk out to the field and beat their pads.” It’s a shift that he says is crucial if his players want to avoid a repeat of the 2010 season.

A 1998 graduate of Greensboro College, Coiro played center for the football team for four seasons. There, he manned an offensive line where he helped open lanes for the running backs and lead the school to rushing records. After his playing days, Coiro returned to his alma mater in 2005, where he was an assistant coach for almost three years. The Citadel then hired him as a strength and conditioning coach—his last post before coming to Grimsley.

He says he has learned a lot since playing and coaching in college. Much of what he learned through experience, he translates and uses to coach his current team. For example, his coaching has been greatly enhanced by his work as a strength and conditioning coach at the Citadel.

“(Coaching is) so one-on-one; its about helping each individual master techniques and skills and understanding you don’t move on until you get better You don’t win games September and November. You win games January until August.”

Speaking of time, his players know they will have to balance athletics and their academics, Coiro says.

Grimsley High School prides itself on scholastic excellence. The school’s tests scores rank in the top 100 nationally.

Coach Coiro puts a lot of emphasis on making sure his guys get the help they need in the classroom. This fall, the players will have a study hall at 7A.M giving them more time to get their homework done. And don’t think he doesn’t keep track of his players’ academic standing.

At one point he told me if he notices a player is not giving it all in the classroom, then who’s to know if he’s not giving it his all on the football field. “It’s my duty to make these kids understand that football is a side benefit of doing the right things in the classroom.”

Just like learning in the classroom, Coiro understands that success on the football field is a process.

On the football field, Coiro tells his kids “a play makes a game, a game makes a season.”

He understands that building up from a one-and-ten season is a progression. A progression that occurs from play to play.

“You are going to make good plays and bad plays. The most important play is the next play.”

The Whirlies will play Ragsdale in their first game on Friday. At this point in the season, Coiro knows his players are still trying to get used to the team’s system. So he is focusing on “mastery of concepts” and building team confidence. It’s a mantra he hopes will stick in the minds of the players as they look to win their first game of the year.

The Whirlies have some gifted players this season. Rivals.com ranks DJ Reader the No. 14 offensive guard in the country.

Coach tells me it helps to have a four-start recruit on your team. Reader will anchor the Whirlies this season. The senior has been on college visits at numerous schools across the country.

Several other team members have shots at football scholarships, too, Coiro says.

Of course, the better the seniors perform, the more scholarships they’ll receive. And coaches know how much that can positively impact player performance. I asked Coiro what he does to get his players pumped up before a game.

Before he credited himself he said, “What gets our guys pumped up … is when the Grimsley community comes together…once (the players) walk up on the field and see their parents on the sideline as the tunnel, friends on the stands…the motivating will take care of itself.”

He’s a humble guy. He is able to reach through to each of his players and tell them what it takes to succeed.

Certainly, he wants his kids to succeed on the football field, but, more importantly, “ten years down the road, knowing they are leading good lives, being good fathers, husbands—that’s the kind of championship we want to win. Everyone wants to win football games, but to be real champions we’ve got other battles to win as well