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Beyond the Gridiron:

By Keynon Janicke







The Joys of High School Football
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To my family and loved ones:
Thank you for all that you have done for me. Without
your love and support throughout the years, I have no
idea where I would be today. I love you.

To my teammates:
It was one helluva ride, men Its something I will
never forget. Thank you for all of the memories along
the way. You guys made my career possible.

To Coach Diduch & Co.:
Thank you for always pushing me to be the best I
could be. You have helped shape me into the man I
am today, and without you, I dont know what path I
would be going down right now. Thank you for
inspiring me.

To Anyone Who Helped Me Along the Way:
Without you guys, my book would not have been
possible. No matter what you have done for me,
thank you I greatly appreciate it.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: My Story 3
Chapter 2: Being a Team Player 11
Chapter 3: Achieving a Goal 19
Chapter 4: Becoming a Coach
o Part I 20
o Part II 27
Chapter 5: Applying Football to Life 32
Chapter 6: Does It Really Matter?... 39



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Chapter 1:
My Story



What is my story? Record breaking running back? All-state player? State
championship? If you look my name up in old newspaper articles, I can almost guarantee
you that you wont see my name too often. I was never the star athlete. I was never the
one racking up rushing yards and scoring touchdowns Even though I did score two
receiving touchdowns my senior year. In my opinion, I was just the average high school
football player. I had to work hard for everything I achieved due to my smaller stature
and disadvantage against bigger, stronger, and faster athletes. During my senior year of
high school, I was a captain of the football team and earned honorable mention all-
conference at the tight end position. Along with all of my teammates, I contributed to our
teams success during a deep playoff run. Doesnt it sound like I was a big stud? I know I
wasnt the best player on the team, and I am completely happy about that.
My name is Keynon Janicke. I am a proud alumni of Forreston High School
where I participated in football and wrestling. Forreston, a small town in the northwestern
corner of Illinois, consists of 1500 people. Thats what the signs coming into town say
anyway, but I doubt the number is that high. Currently, I am attending the University of
Dubuque to earn a degree in education. One day, I aspire to be a high school English
teacher and a head coach for a varsity football team.
Youre probably thinking, Why the hell is this guy writing a book about high
school football? What could he possibly know? Even though I am at a very early stage
in my life, half of it has been spent playing and studying the game of football. I dont
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know everything about the game, and I have a lot more to learn. Thats what drives me
every single day to improve my weaknesses and to increase my skills and knowledge
from the day before.
My football career started in 2003 when I was nine years old. One day, my father
came up to my brother and me and asked if we wanted to start playing football. Even
though I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I remember screaming, Yeah!
While I may have regretted my choice at first, I believe it was one of the best decisions of
my life.
I was a left guard and defensive tackle for the Blackhawk Warriors. I picked the
number 8 because I was a huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan at the time. He was a big upcoming
NASCAR driver at the time that raced the number 8 Budweiser car. I made it through the
year, but I absolutely hated it. I hated going to practice. I hated being in the hot sun. Plus,
I didnt know what I was doing. I couldnt tackle, run fast, or do anything that resembled
athleticism. My brother seemed to be a natural at it. He had always been an athletic
person, and he still is to this day.
I decided to come back out for football the next year. Progressively, I started
getting better and better. I finally made the A team like my brother did the previous year.
I had unenthusiastically been on the B team. After the year ended, we finished with a 4-4
record. We werent the best team in our league, but my hard work and effort didnt go
unnoticed as I was awarded the Offensive Lineman of the Year at the end of the year
banquet. This concluded my time with the Warriors because the very next year, I made
the huge leap to middle school. Just like that, I was a Forreston Cardinal.
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In middle school, I started to mature into a decent football player. From sixth
grade to eighth grade, I started every game at middle linebacker. In eighth grade, our
team impressively went undefeated and only allowed six points all season. I knew after
the season ended, that this was going to be a very athletic and physical team when we
reached high school. However, it took a couple years for us to fully develop.
My freshman and sophomore seasons are years I usually like to forget about. I
was mainly a defensive player my freshman year. I didnt make it to the end of the year
because I was forced to sit out the last three games. I had been handed the ball during a
fresh-soph game against Ashton-Franklin Center. During the play, I failed to even make
it back to the line of scrimmage. Due to my linemens insufficient blocking, I was hit
right away. Someone tackled me high, another low. In the end, I received a broken ankle
and an eventful ambulance ride to the nearest hospital.
Even though I rarely came off the field sophomore year, it was worse than my
freshman year. During this time in Forreston, our program was going through a
transitional period. We didnt have the strongest teams like previous years; this is why
most of the sophomores were moved up to varsity. We were a young team, and thats a
big reason why the varsity team struggled. The sophomore team wasnt any better. After
several of my friends were moved up to the varsity team, we were left with around seven
sophomores. The rest were freshmen. Lets just say that we struggled that year as well.
In 2010, which was my junior year, we made huge strides for our program. With a
team that was led by only five seniors, we managed to make our way back into the
playoffs with a 6-3 record. Our playoff run didnt last as long as we would have liked it
to as we were defeated by the eventual state champions. This was the very last time I was
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able to play side by side with brother,
Kyle. Like all brothers, we have had
our differences in the past, but I can
honestly say playing football with him
was one of the best experiences of my
life. No matter where he is or what he
is doing, I will forever be proud of him
and his admired achievements.
Finally. It was the moment my
teammates and I had been waiting for since we started playing together in sixth grade.
The 2011 season that was led by nine seniors including myself was one for the record
books. As a player, it was one of the most exciting seasons I have ever been a part of, yet
it was a disheartening one as well.
We knew we had a special team. We had the talent and athleticism that could
have led us straight to a state championship. After a nine game season, we finished with
an 8-1 record. We were also co-conference champions for the first time since 2004. We
knew we could make it to Champaign, the location of the state title game; we just had to
put it all together for a deep playoff run. Little by little, we started putting the pieces
together. Our team started playing the best football it had played all year. Going into the
third round of playoffs, we were riding high and feeling confident about ourselves.
Nobody could stop us Until someone finally did.
November 12, 2011. That was the last football game I ever played. Am I still
bitter about it? Youre damn right I am. I havent gotten over it, and I dont know if I
Me and my brother, Kyle. What I would do to go back to
this
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ever will. Going into the Quarterfinal game, we had a slight advantage over the Dakota
Indians. Not only did we beat them by twenty-five points in second week of the season,
we were the higher playoff seed.
I dont remember much from the game. Hell, I own the game film, and I have
only watched it once. It gave me a headache just watching it, so I decided not to watch it
for a while. I do know the game started off well for us. We forced a turnover early and
scored the first touchdown. After that, it turned into a defensive battle that didnt go our
way.
What the hell is going on right now? This was my exact thought while the
remaining seconds were ticking off the clock. This shouldnt be happening right now.
We are better than these pricks.
Final score: Forreston-9, Dakota- 16. They were the better team that day, and they
proved it. They outplayed us, and we failed to capitalize on our opportunities. They
ultimately went on to win a state title. One day, I will accept the outcome of that game,
and I will put it behind me. However, today is not that day.
After football was over, I quickly transferred to my next sport. The wrestling
season went just as fast as the football one. Before I knew it, I was walking across the
stage at graduation. Where did the time go?
I had a small college football stint after high school. I decided to play football at
the University of Dubuque, which I am still currently attending. I went there to play
fullback. It was hard at first. New team. New people. It was something I had to get used
to, but I was getting along alright. The first two weeks of training camp went by, and I
had worked myself up to the fourth fullback position out of nine. After knowing this, I
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started building a little more confidence and getting increasingly more comfortable.
Then, just like that, it was all over again.
Following the first day after training camp, I was taking reps on the scout kickoff
team. I had already taken a couple of reps, so I was feeling pretty good during this
particular session. I also wasnt getting hit too hard by upperclassmen, and that was
always a good sign. During my last rep of practice, I was running down the field while
closing down my gap. In turn, I was doing my best to close down on the ball, so the kick
returner didnt have any open lanes to run. As I made a move inside an opposing player, I
instantly felt a POP.
I saw it. I felt it. I even heard it. Suddenly, my left knee had entirely given out
from under me. The trainers didnt think it was too bad of an injury at first, and I thought
they were right. Minutes after being carried off the field by two teammates, I was
walking fine and lightly jogging on the sideline. After further evaluation the next day,
one of the head athletic trainers explained to me that the severity of this injury might be
more that what they intentionally thought. Therefore, we made appointments for me to
get a MRI and X-ray.
For some reason, it took about a week to get an appointment in. I still havent
figured out why it took so damn long. The results from my test took a couple of days to
come in, but I knew what they were before they even told me. A cut I had made a
thousand times over my athletic career resulted in a complete ACL tear.
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Prior to coming to and playing for Dubuque, I decided that I was going to stop
playing football if I in anyway got significantly injured. While it was very hard for me, I
knew I had to stay true to my decision. I knew I was making the best decision for my
health and physical well-being. After ten years of playing the game I fell in love with, I
decided it was the appropriate time to hang up my cleats and transition into the next part
of my life.
Thats my story. Its probably not as
interesting as you hoped it would be, but thats
how it is. I wasnt a player who put the team on
his back or scored all the touchdowns. I was the
player who fulfilled his duties on the field, so
someone else could be in the spotlight. I was
almost a collegiate athlete! Do I regret that? Of
course not. I believe because of the positions I
played and how hard I worked during my
football seasons, it shaped me into the man I am
today. Just because I wasnt the star, I shouldnt
be misjudged as someone who doesnt know football. Like I said, I still have a lot to
learn. Nevertheless, from my own experiences, I believe this game can have a greater
effect on the teenagers who participate than people imagine.
With all that being said, why am I writing this book? What am I trying to prove?
Being a part of my high school football team was one of the greatest things that ever
happened to me. In addition to building lifelong bonds with people I now call my
Last First Game Ever. First Game Senior Year
vs. Galena Pirates.
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brothers, I truly believe this game has the capability of optimistically impacting teenagers
who play. Through all the weight room sessions, meetings, practices, walk-throughs, and
games, this game can be beneficial to players as it helps them build character and develop
traits that are essential for the adult world. Small town high school football did this for
me, and I have faith that it can do it for other people as well.


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Chapter 2:
Being a Team Player


So What exactly does it mean to be a team player? Being a practice dummy for
the starters? Doing everything the coach tells you to do? While these things could be the
actions of a team player to a certain extent, it happens to mean so much more than that.
Anyone can be looked at as a team player, but it takes a special player to actually be one.
Whether its the third string freshman lineman or the starting varsity running back, they
have the potential of being the ultimate teammate.
In my own personal opinion, I believe a team player is someone that is willing to
do whatever is asked of them in order for the team to succeed.
You probably recognize the boldness applied to the world team. That is because
it is the most important aspect of that statement. Being a team player is not and never
should be about one individual. Its about the team has a unit. By making the
commitment to be the best teammate you can be, you are ultimately making a promise to
your team that you will fulfill each one of your duties no matter what they may be.
Yes, you can be the athlete who runs the fastest or hits the hardest, but what are
you doing besides that? Not only should you perform to the best of your abilities on
Friday nights, you should be eager to push your teammates to their full potential as well.
Whether its pushing them harder in a drill or merely giving them a small pep talk during
a time that they are struggling, simply supporting the teammates you go to battle with can
go a long way.
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Considering this was the type of player I was in high school, I am relatively aware
of what it takes to be one. Especially since I was one who converted positions for other
players to be showcased on local news stations and admired among members of the
community, I believe I have the right to claim my persona as a team player.
Converted positions? What is this guy talking about? Even though I was a running
back and linebacker throughout middle school and high school, my coach and I decided
playing tight end would be the best fit for me and the team during my senior year. I was
apprehensive about the move at first. For anyone that is familiar with the conference
Forreston plays in, it is not full of teams that utilize the passing attack. Ultimately, this
means that I would be blocking throughout the majority of games. I would be a glorified
lineman. This is how my coach and I described it. To add onto that, I had never even
played the position before.
Although I questioned the new position, I quickly came to accept my coachs
decision and started thinking of ways to become the best tight end I could be. People find
it hard to understand why I would do this. I was a ball carrier. I had the glory of stiff
arming people to the turf and racing for the end zone. Like I said in Chapter 1, I was the
player who fulfilled his duties on the field, so someone else could be in the spotlight. I
would have greatly enjoyed being a running back and carrying the football like I was
used to, but I was meant for different things. While I wasnt in the limelight, I was still an
essential part of the team.
While I could ramble on about my experiences and how I became a team player, I
decided to reach out to former high school athletes that I had the privilege of playing with
and against to get a little more depth on what being a team player entails.
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One of the first people I decided to contact is a close personal friend of mine.
Even though I only had to walk down the hallway of our apartment to speak with him, I
was truly fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss football with him. Im also honored
to call this man a best friend.
The man Im referring to his former Forreston Cardinal Tanner Bronkema. During
our senior season, I had the unique experience of playing next to Tanner on the offense
and defensive side of the ball. While he
stood out as a three sport athlete in high
school, it was and still is amazing to see
what Tanner can accomplish.
Wearing the number 76 on his back,
Tanner was a pivotal part of our 2011 team
as he went on to be named a first team-all
state defensive and offensive lineman.
Currently, he attends the University of
Dubuque where he is still playing the game
that he loves. This upcoming season looks to be a promising one for Tanner as he plans
on becoming an offensive starter in his junior year.
I decided to contact Tanner because he continues to be a student of the game.
Also, his passion for the game is still alive, and that has been apparent through his
decision to play at the collegian level.
Because of his experience and knowledge, I was interested in knowing what being
a team player meant to him. For some reason, I was expecting an exposing answer that
My little sidekick, Tanner Bronkema.
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would reveal the secret formula of being the perfect teammate. I believe Tanners stellar
athletic ability clouded my judgment and made me believe that he had an undisclosed
method on how to be a team player. His thoughts on a team player turned out to be clear
cut and to the point.
Likewise to my personal beliefs, Tanner Bronkema believes team players are
members of a team, good
or bad, who carry out
their specific, designed
roles to make the team the
best it can be. On top of
executing your
responsibilities, he
explained that team
players have the unique
ability of putting the team before yourself. If you are unable to do so, you will eventually
become an agitating distraction for you fellow teammates and coaches.
He further made clear that players who dont receive an abundance of playing
time can be team players as well. Even though they may not see the field as much, they
are the guys getting starters ready for games. They are the ones who face the starting
offense and defense during practice. These guys show their passion for football just by
practicing as hard as they can and cheering on their teammates under the lights.
Essentially, Tanner believes players who arent in the spotlight are just as
important as those who are. Without the practice players and athletes of this nature, you
I would have been in a lot of trouble if I didnt have #76 by my side.
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wouldnt have the teammates running for touchdowns or making the thunderous tackles.
Therefore, you shouldnt count anyone out based on their athletic ability. No matter who
it is, when someone decides to participate and go out for the football team, they have a
significant role on the team.
Throughout our interview, Tanner continually stressed key points in being a team
player. I couldnt help but agree with what he said. Because I am good friends with him
and had the chance of playing right next to him during high school, I believe I can
validate that Tanner exemplifies everything it takes to be a team player. Even though
Tanner was one of the big name guys on our football team, he did what he could to
motivate other players and lead us to victory. With that being said, Tanner always did
what he could to get us win. Push. Scratch. Crawl. Whatever it took, he was doing it
because he cared about our team and everyone on it.
Now, if Tanner Bronkema was the person I played with, who was the person I
played against? As I was trying to find someone else to interview and talk football with, I
thought back to my playing days. Who sticks out in mind? I didnt want to interview
another former teammate of mine because I wanted to reach out to someone with
different perspectives and experiences. Keeping this in mind, I thought of players on
teams I had played against. While many names came to mind, only one stuck
significantly. That is the reason why I decided to contact this person and get his input on
the matter.
While our teams may be
humongous rivals, I still went forth
and decided to contact former Dakota
Jake Apple during the Illinois Class 1A State Championship
game vs. the Tuscola Warriors. November 2011.
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Indian Jake Apple. Amongst the players in our conference during the 2011 season, Jake is
someone that stands head and shoulder above the rest, and I couldnt think of anyone
better to get a hold of. In seventh grade, Jake started his football career at Dakota High
School in Dakota, Illinois. Like Forreston, Dakota is another small town in the
northwestern corner of Illinois. Over the next several years, this is where Jake developed
into a very mature, athletic football player. During his time on the varsity football team,
Jake earned numerous awards and accomplishments such unanimous first team all-
conference running back. Not only did he do this is senior year, he was able to do it the
year before as well.
More importantly, Jake was an essential part of their team as they raced past
teams in their impressive playoff run.
Two weeks after defeating us, Jake
was able to conclude his time with the
Dakota Indians with a state
championship. During the Class 1A
State Championship game against the
Tuscola Warriors, Jake rushed for 373
yards, which became a new state title
game record. That record still presently stands.
Fast forward a couple years, Jake is now attending the Aurora University where
he still plays football. He continues to find success on the field as he recently rushed for
one thousand and twenty-five yards and was named first team all-conference running
back. This was only the seventh time in Auroras history that a running back had over a
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thousand yards on the ground. In his own words, This is my greatest football
achievement to date because being successful in college is a lot harder to do.
With that being said, why did I choose to interview Jake Apple? Yes, its obvious
that he has tremendous abilities when it comes to playing football, but the point of this
section is to show why being a team player is essential within a team atmosphere. Well,
along with being an amazing athlete, I believe Jake demonstrates traits of a team player.
Like I did with Tanner, I asked Jake, What does being a team player mean to
you? He responded, The team aspect in football is like no other sport because you must
believe in ten other guys on the field to be successful. He went on to explain that
football is a special sport because it doesnt revolve around one single player or a couple
players. Its about the whole team, and if no one is willing to work together, then there
are no true team players.
With all that being said, I think these two have validated how vital team players
are to a team atmosphere. Without these
types of athletes, its almost impossible to be successful and achieve the goals the team
has set for itself. Because at the end of the day, theres only one ultimate goal a team is
trying to reach.
Jake races for a touchdown vs. Lakeland College.
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Chapter 3:
Achieving a Goal



Due to the length of this semester and amount of research I obtained, I wasnt able
to quite piece this chapter together. While I did have various information, I believe it
wasnt enough to make it a full chapter. If I had enough resources, I would utilize this
chapter to talk about how everyone on a team comes together day in and day out to
achieve one goal: winning a state championship. After putting all of those hours in the
weight room, at practice, in meetings, its all for the ultimate prize. Once I described
what the experience was like to either win state or come up short, I would start to
transition into how essential the coachs role, and thats where my next chapter will start
off.
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Chapter 4:
Becoming a Coach

Part I

For me personally at this point in my life, I am in a transitional period. With all of
the wear and tear my body has endured throughout the years, I am definitely not as agile
and flexible as I used to be. Instead of practicing and training every day, I struggle to find
time to get a workout in or even little physical activity. Because of my clustered
schedule, I am constantly running around from class to work to home and so much more.
I know the nights under the lights are behind me, and I accept that completely. Its
accurate to say Im not as athletic as I once one, and thats definitely obvious considering
the only real exercise I get is occasionally playing pick-up basketball with my friends.
However, this transitional period is something all athletes go through. No matter what,
there always comes a day where you have to stop playing. For some people, its easy for
them to realize when their time is up. For others, its the most difficult decision of their
life. Look at someone like Brett Favre. He had one helluva time deciding whether he was
staying or going.
With all that said, what can one do after their career comes to a finish? Does it
just become a forgotten memory and thrown to the waste side? What if this game has
influenced you so greatly that you cant just simply walk away from it?
In my case, I knew I couldnt play anymore. I just couldnt it. After experiencing
the situation that I did with the severity of my injury, my heart and mind were not in the
appropriate place in order for me to keep playing. I knew if I couldnt be all in, then I
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couldnt be in at all. I respected the game too much to let my efforts and emotions tarnish
everything it stands for. However, football wasnt something I couldnt just walk away
from. Football was my life for over ten years. How do you overlook something like that?
I dont want to appear as someone who is holding onto his glory days as long as
he can because thats not what its about. Im not the guy sitting at the end of the bar
every night reminiscing about the past. Outside of football, I have many more hopes and
desires that I want to attend to. I want to one day raise a family with a woman I am
absolutely in love with. I want to be able to make as many memories as I did with my
own family. I want to be able to look back on my life a hundred years from now and
realize that my life was meaningful and purposeful.
However, football will still be something that remains with me. Through all of the
plays I ran and hits I took, this game loved me just as much as I loved it. If something or
someone can affect you at this level of magnitude, there should be no reason to walk
away.
Because I cannot be the player I once was, I have decided to use this transitional
period to start my quest in becoming a football coach. Even though I would have never
seen myself becoming a football coach two years ago, I am completely proud of my
decision to pursue this dream. Along with influencing students in my future classroom,
this gives me the opportunity to be a role model for players and impact their lives as well.
As a coach, you must be able to encourage and motivate your team players along
with all of your athletes in any way possible. Considering I have been on numerous types
of football teams, I have experienced many different coaching styles and how coaches
have adapted and accommodated for the different personalities on a team. Some have
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been good; some have been subpar. Some have been exceptionally terrible while others
have been absolutely amazing to me.
Throughout this particular journey, I have relied on my former coaches for
guidance as they have provided me with knowledgeable tips and insight. Becoming a
coach and actually being one may sound like a breeze, but it can be a lot more
challenging than you realize. As I continually volunteer my time and effort to my
hometown school as well as schools in the Dubuque area, I am constantly finding ways to
improve myself as a coach.
For instance, over the summer of 2013, I spent over two hundred volunteer hours
at Forreston High School working with players and athletes in the weight room and at
practice. Throughout this experience, I had the profitable pleasure of being mentored by
my former head coach. Even though my coaching life has just begun, I feel as though Im
heading in the right direction.
You may have noticed that I keep mentioning former coaches who I refer to as
extraordinary or significant role models in my life. During my time as a Forreston
Cardinal, I was blessed with the best coaching staff a player could ask for. The coaches
we had went above and beyond to be not only the best coach they could be, but the best
person they could be as well. These men did whatever they could to be there for us and
supports us in any way they could.
One man that stands out head and shoulder above any coach I have ever had is
Dennis Diduch Jr., a.k.a. Denny Diduch. For the sake of this book, I will refer to him as
Coach Diduch because I know he doesnt necessarily enjoy being called Dennis. Since I
have known him, Coach Diduch has had one of the biggest impacts of my life. Because I
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remain so close with him and his family, I reached out to him regarding this book. He
was more than willing to help me and give me helpful advice on becoming a coach.
Outside of football and school, Coach Diduch is married with four kids (who I
always enjoy babysitting). His wife, Jessie, is someone I am equally close with. In high
school, she was always there
for me whenever I needed
her to be. She also wrote
letters for my friend Adam
and me each week to inspire
and motivate us before each
game. I still have all the
letters she gave me in a very
safe place because I always
enjoy reading them from
time to time. They will always be something I hold close to my heart.
After a much decorated football career at Maine South High School, Coach
Diduch went on to play cornerback for two years at Illinois Wesleyan University. Earning
a degree in history with an education minor in 1998, he quickly found a job out of college
at Forreston High School where he is still at today. Currently, he teaches civics and world
history, and he is the head coach of the varsity football team.
After taking over the program six years ago, Coach Diduch has compiled a record
of 41 wins and 21 loses, which includes four straight playoff appearances. When he was
named the head coach in 2008, this happened to be my freshman year of high school.
Graduation Day. Coach Diduch, Me, Jessie, and Adam.
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Luckily, I was able to have him throughout high school. During my senior year, he led us
to our first conference championship since 2004 and a quarterfinal appearance in the
playoffs. The following year, he led the Cardinals back to the quarterfinals. During the
course of his tenure, Coach Diduch has showed incredible drive and work ethic when it
comes to working with these young adults. Because I know him personally and what he is
all about, I believe its only a short matter of time before he turns his quarterfinal
appearances into state championship seasons.
As I interviewed Coach Diduch, I wanted to gain answers that would be beneficial
to me as well as others who are trying to become a head coach. Bearing in mind his ten
plus years of experience and our close relationship, I knew his responses and tips would
be more than adequate.
One of the first questions I asked Coach Diduch was, What does being a head
coach and being in charge of a program mean to you? He explained that being there for
the kids is the one of the most important aspects of coaching. We are all in it because we
liked the coaches that we had. We are passing something down like a father-son type
experience. Ultimately, throughout the season, you want to give the players the best
experience possible. Even though winning is nice, teenagers and kids play football
because its fun and something that they enjoy.
At a head coaching standpoint, Coach Diduch believes one of his main objectives
is to give the senior football players lasting memories. Its important that they go out with
a season that will remember and have fond memories of regardless of their talent level
because its their last one ever with all of their closest childhood friends and peers. In
most cases, the seniors are the ones who have put in the most time and effort over their
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last four years. With all the blood, sweat, tears, success, and failures, they deserve to be
rewarded in some type of way. While a season may not go in your favor, the moments
you share with each other can be worthwhile.
Another key idea Coach Diduch brought to my attention was building a
community-like atmosphere within your team. After asking him how he gets his players
to buy into the football program and the concepts it has established, he initially
elaborated on the importance of the weight room and why its essential for the players to
invest in themselves physical and mentally. In the weight room, kids can become stronger
and faster and improve other areas of their abilities. However, Coach Diduch also said
that the weight room has the capability of creating a community.
For example, away from the football field, the weight room is another place for
teammates and coaches to interact, but in a different way. Instead of going over game
plans and techniques, this is a place where more interaction can occur because you can
see everyone on the team in the weight room. When youre out at practice, you dont
always get to see everyone because each player plays different positions. Firstly, older
kids are able to be positive role models for the younger ones. Whether its giving them
tips about a certain lift or leading them through stretching, they are able to help out the
younger athletes. Then, as more people start seeing success in the weight room, it tends to
generate a positive feeling throughout the team. When a positive feelings are being
produced, it can lead to a teams success in many different ways on and off the field.
Throughout our conversation together, Coach Diduch was able to provide me with
very detailed, resourceful answers that would help me and others if they were pursuing a
head coaching position. If I had the ability to, I would publish all of the points we talked
25

about, but that would be pretty hard to do so considering I can talk to him for hours on
end about anything and everything.
I think that in itself
goes to show how much
Coach Diduch means to me
not only as a former coach,
but as a person. Now that
Im out of high school and
going to college, I refer to
him as a very close friend.
No matter what the situation is,
Im positive I can go to him and
that he will help and support me in any way that he can. At the end of the day, thats what
coaching is all about. Not only is it about being there for your athletes for the four years
theyre in high school, its about motivating them to be something more. I could never
thank Coach Diduch enough for everything he has done for me over the years. He is the
biggest reason why I am getting into teaching and coaching. I want to have an effect on
students and players like he has with me. Regardless of where I end up in my life, I will
continue to have nothing but love for him and his entire family.




One of my favorite pictures I cant wait to have a headset of my own.
26

Part II
You may be wondering why I split this chapter into two different sections. Well,
there a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, because Coach Diduch has been so grateful to
me and continues to be a supporting mentor as Im even writing this, I wanted to dedicate
a part of my book towards him. In Part I, I was able to do just that. Furthermore, I wanted
to utilize this sector to discuss a different aspect of coaching from a different perspective.
Likewise to the team player breakdown in Chapter 2, I wanted to gain two
different outlooks on coaching as well. Therefore, while I thought of another coach to
interview, a possible candidate quickly came to mind, and I contacted him as quickly as I
possibly could.
Once he graduated from Stockton High School, Ric Arand decided to attend
Loras College. Likewise to myself, he arrived as an accounting major, but quickly
changed his major when he realized that wasnt what he wanted to pursue. After earning
his education degree in 1989, he went to graduate school at Indiana University where he
earned his masters degree in just one, short year. Since 1990, Ric Arand has been the
middle school physical education teacher at Lena-Winslow High School, just fifteen
minutes away from his alma mater high school.
So what? Why am I interviewing this guy? Throughout my time in high school,
Coach Arand was one of the most successful coaches in the state of Illinois. Since
becoming head coach, he has been leading his team year in and year out to deep play off
runs. In the last seventeen years, he has led his football team to fifteen straight playoff
appearances including numerous conference championships. Remember how I said our
2010 playoff run didnt last as long as we would have liked? It was Coach Arands Lena-
27

Winslow Panthers that defeated us in the
first round and went on to win a state
championship. Just a few years later in 2013,
even though the regular season had been
quite rocky at times, he led the Panthers to
another state title.
With all that being said, why
wouldnt I want to interview this coach? He
has had an immense amount of experience in
the last twenty three years, and its obvious
that he has been successful as a football coach.
In some way or another, I knew talking to Coach Arand would be beneficial for me and
that it would help me grow as a coach.
Before I spoke with Coach Arand, I wasnt exactly sure what to expect. I knew of
him because we had played against each other before, but we didnt actually know each
other. I didnt know if it would go smoothly, if it would be awkward, or whatever the
case may be. After meeting with him, it turned out to be a great experience on my end,
and Im grateful that he took time out his day just to speak with me.
After looking over my notes from my interview with him compared to Coach
Diduchs, it was an interesting contrast. When I look over the first interview, Coach
Diduch gave me more advice on coaching from a team aspect. In other words, as a coach,
he talked about how I can make the team better and create a better environment. On the
other hand, Coach Arand gave me coaching advice with an individual viewpoint. By this,
Ric Arand, right, after his first state championship
victory. November 2010.
28

I mean he gave me advice that was more for personal use rather than tips on how to
manage a team. Dont get me wrong. Both coaches helped me out remarkably with their
diverse answers, and Im positive I can gain from their insight.
After realizing that the coaches I had met up with gave me differing views on the
same subject, it made me excited to review over our interviews to see what kind of things
they said about the same thing. While some of their remarks remained similar, others
differed in an unique way. For example, one of the questions I asked Coach Arand was,
What are your offseasons like?
When I asked Coach Arand this, I somewhat expected him to talk about how he
prepares for the upcoming football season and what his plans are to keep getting better as
a team such as Coach Diduch did. However, I believe the continuous success he has been
having clouded my perception of him, which is similar to my scenario with Tanner
Bronkema in Chapter 2 when I thought he possessed a secret formula of being the
ultimate team player. Coach Arand emphasized how he doesnt live, sleep, breath
football. He said to me in our interview, Its a big part of my life, but its not my life.
Like anyone else, he enjoys spending time with his family and getting away from things
when he has the time to.
I thought this point was important to highlight because its one of the best pieces
of advice he gave me. Even though Im talking about how great the game of football is in
this book, it shouldnt be a hundred percent your life. When youre a coach, you should
always make sure you have time to spend with your family because at the end of the day,
they are the most significant people in your life. Sometimes, you have to allow yourself
to take your mind off of football even during the season. If you constantly try to be a
29

coach and watch game film and study opponents every chance you get, it will consume
you. The essence of this message is to have a life outside of football. Football can be a
wondrous things, but you have to be available to other things. If you dont, it can drive
you off the edge.
In addition to
this, another matter
he gave details about
was the small town
aspect. In small
towns such as
Forreston and Lena,
there isnt a lot of
things going on. There are no major events or happenings that really take place, so all
eyes are on the high school level sports especially football. In Lena, Coach Arand said
its a pride thing for Panther fans. People of a small town take pride in their local high
school and do what they can to support the team. Coach Arand said, People put Friday
nights and Saturday afternoons on their calendar in the fall. Football games are
important to a small town because it has the capability of uniting the town as one. When a
team like Lena-Winslow Panthers make a deep playoff run or win state, fans are coming
out to watch the games and cheer on their hometown.
On the flip side, while uniting a town can be a monumental experience, it can turn
unpleasant in a hurry. Lets say you have a couple of dominant season. Youre a coach
like Ric Arand, and you just won your second state championship in four years. Do
Forreston vs. Lena-Winslow Our only regular season loss. 2011.
30

expectations change? Are you expected to win state every single year? In a small town
atmosphere, this is exactly the case. After being so successful, it bring so much joy and
happiness to a small town that they want to experience it as much as they can. When they
arent able to after a bad season or even a bad game, it creates a sour feeling among many
of the fans. Another piece advice Coach Arand gave me was to have thick skin
concerning these fans. The criticism about not being the greatest coach or things youre
doing wrong will be nothing compared to what your loved ones hear when theyre sitting
in the stands on game days. By keeping your composure in situations like this, you are
able to maintain a respectable and humble reputation.
In my opinion, it was awesome having the opportunity of sitting down and talking
with a coach like Coach Arand. While its apparent that hes a flourishing coach when it
comes to his win-loss record, its also easy to see what kind of impact he has on his
players and the town of Lena through his positive philosophies and viewpoints. While I
will take his advice on being my own original self when it comes to coaching, I will make
use of the ideas he provide me with.


31

Chapter 5:
Applying Football to Life


You have learned about myself and my athletic background. You have seen what
it takes to become a team player and the ultimate student of the game. Afterwards, I
explained some helpful tips on how to further your football career into coaching. So,
where the hell did I explain how football helps build character? Youre right. I didnt, but
I have a reason for it.
In order to save what I believe the best chapter for last (or close to last), I decided
to discuss the other main points in my topic first. I wanted to leave this chapter at the end,
so when youre finished reading this book, this chapter will have more of a lasting
impression on you. I could have written it in after my background information in Chapter
1, but then what? Would you have remembered it after reading thirty plus more pages? I
personally dont think so.
In football, there are many things kids can acquire by playing. Through all the
game film, workout sessions, practices, and games, its unbelievable to think about the
amount of traits athletes can significantly develop. While there are so many to choose
from, I thought to myself which ones are the most vital when it comes to personal growth
and development. Consequently, I decided to classify the characterisitcs into three
categories: preparation, accountability, and work ethic.
For many things in life, preparation is an essential tool. Whether you are
completing a task for work or picking your kids up from school, you must always be
prepared for the situation youre dealing with. Anything can happen that throws a wrench
32

in your plans. Maybe, you get a flat tire when youre going to pick your children up.
Maybe, the computer system is down at work, so you cant finish your project on time.
No matter what the case is, you must be prepared to handle these certain situations, and
football gives the young adults the chance to obtain type of skills.
In football, one way players learn preparation skills is through organization. All
throughout the week, teams plan and strategize against their opponents to give them the
best possible chances to win. By being organized, you are more prepared for the game.
For games, certain things you have to organize are different assignments for various
plays. When youre considering the plays of a playbook, players always have different
tasks depending on what they play is. One play they could be blocking, and another, they
could be going down field on a pass route. By organizing the plays in your mind and
having them in your playbook in a structured manner, it can be greatly beneficial as
youre preparing against a tough opponent.
Another way
football improves
preparation is by hard work
through teamwork. As a
team, players must be
willing and able to come
together and work
relentlessly to perfect their
techniques and abilities. At the
end of the day, each player on the team should be seeing eye to eye. By giving your best
Teamwork at its finest.
33

efforts with their teammates, football players will be acquiring skills necessary to prepare
in environments and situations that deal with teamwork.
For example, if you have an ordinary office job, one day, your boss might decide
to pair you up with someone to complete a task/s. For no reason at all, he just decides to
do that because he simply can, and he wants it done now. As an employee, you must be
able to work with other people and get along with; otherwise, you probably wont be
working there too much longer. During our interview, Ric Arand explained to me that
teamwork is important with anything. Especially if you want to win a state title,
teammates have to be able to prepare together and accomplish goals together. If you fail
to do so, little success will be found.
Something that I believed to go hand in hand with preparation is accountability. In
the game of football, once you are appropriately prepared, you are greatly held
accountable for your role on the team. Usually, your coaches assign your role for a
specific game or even a practice. That can be anything ranging from what position youre
playing to what type of situations you will be playing to how you will be playing a
position.
Trust is a key factor when dealing with accountability. By continuously doing
whats asked of you and fulfilling your obligations, it builds the trust your coaches and
teammates have for you. It shows your team that you are someone they can rely on to
always do the right things. Then, when your coach is looking for someone to come up
with a big play, you are someone he can have confidence in. Likewise to someone if they
are in a work environment, if they are always doing whats asked of them, it may stick
34

out to your boss that youre a responsible person. This can lead to thing such as valuable
references by your supervisor or even promotions.
Another way players are able to develop their accountability skills is through their
levels of resiliency and discipline. While certain players are equipped with outstanding
athleticism, no athlete can ever be perfect one hundred percent of the time. Mistakes will
be made during games and practices, and thats expected. Mistakes allow players to grow
and learn from them. However, its important to limit the amount of mistakes you make.
So, when you do have a couple of bad plays in a row or maybe a bad game, it gives
players the chance to show how resilient and self-controlled they are.
For example, lets say Jake Apple missed a couple of tackles during a Friday
night game. Hes becoming more and more frustrated as he keeps missing or is too slow
to the punch. The beauty of football is that there is always more than one play. Yes, you
may get beat a couple of times; however, during the next play, you can easily bounce
back and get back on track with your mechanics and techniques. Even though Jake may
be getting flustered, he has the chance of buckling down and making a tackle on the very
next game. In our interview, he said football has taught (him) to never give up and
that hard work does pay off.
A concept like this can easily be transferred to a real life situation. Lets say
instead of being in a work situation, you keep forgetting important dates on the calendar
for family events. First, you forget your sons parent-teacher conference. Then, you
accidentally miss a lunch date you had scheduled with your wife. If you played football,
you can use this game to your advantage by utilizing your resiliency skills. As you take
responsibility for missing each event, you can bounce back and prove to your family that
35

youre still trustworthy by taking a more attentive approach to make reminders for
yourself. This way, you will be able to make future events and happenings and show your
family that you are a responsible husband and father.
The last category I decided to emphasis was work ethic. In all aspects of your life,
working hard and being the best person you can be should be something you consistently
strive for. Whether its at work, at home, or just in society as a whole, I believe a work
ethic is something in which you should be proud of. In my opinion, football is a sport
which can help develop your work ethic into one you can be honored with.
By enhancing your work ethic, one thing football gives players experience with is
commitment. When a young adult makes the decision to participate in football at the high
school level, they are making a commitment not only to themselves, but their teammates,
coaches, and entire program as well. With all of the things that are involved in playing,
its obvious that youre commitment level needs to be high. If youre not able to give full
dedication to your team, then you are most likely in the wrong sport. Football is team
sport, and in order to be successful, each player needs to be able to work at the same
level.
Therefore, by going through all the practices, workout sessions, games, etc.,
youre proving your dedication to the game and how valuable it is to yourself. In the
future, when you have a family of your own and an actual job, you can use the skills you
acquired to commit your entire efforts towards your home life and work place. This can
be a significant factor when people have to decide whether or not they can trust you. By
showing that youre a committed person, youre demonstrating that youre a hard worker
as well.
36

In addition, by testing out your mental toughness and courage, it can lead to
stronger, well-round work ethic. In the game of football, you have to be mentally tough.
During each play of entire game, youre being pushed, hit, scratched, and so much more.
It can be a painful game. Therefore, you must be willing to exemplify your braveness in
the line of battle.
In Coach Diduchs eyes, he explained in our interview that if we didnt have high
school football, there wouldnt be anything else that challengers young mens manhood.
In each play of a game, your pride is on the line. You either win the battle, or you dont.
Then, you throw in all of the criticism from fans, local newspapers, and more if a team
messes up in a way. Football gives players the opportunity to show how mentally strong
they are. In turn, they can respond to their critics by coming out each Friday night and
playing with their hearts on the line. A situation like this can come in handy in the future
whether you go onto college or enter the work force. If a professor is constantly nagging
you or a boss is regularly on your ass, your mental toughness can persevere as you
continue to be the best person you can be.
37

To add onto my
points about courage, you
must be brave in order to
play football. You have to
be courageous enough to
keep getting hit and then
getting back up to play
another down. You have to
be brave enough to hit
someone back as well to give your team the best chance of winning. In my own example,
I was smaller than every opponent I stack up against. I was a 57, 160 lbs. tight end going
up against at least 63, 225 lbs. defensive lineman. You bet your ass I was scared. I
thought I was going to get pummeled every single play, but I didnt. I proved how gutsy I
truly was by constantly fighting back and fulfilling my roles on the team.
Personally, I know this trait is transferable to the real world. Every day, people
face things that they are scared of. People are scared of losing their job, becoming sick,
losing a love one, and so much more. Something a lot of people are extremely afraid of is
change. Generally, nobody tends to enjoy change because they dont know what the
consequences of it will be. In life, you have to be willing to take chances. If you dont,
you will ultimately be stuck in your little bubble for your entire life without any chance
of interacting with new, wonderful people and making experiences of a lifetime. Football
gives kids the necessary mindset to take risks. Yes, theyre going to fall down and fail at
some point or another, but who doesnt? Football teaches these teenagers that they can
First Round of Playoffs vs. Chicago- Hales Fransiscan Biggest opponents I
have ever faced. October 2011.
38

keep getting hit with conflict and adversity, but remain strong by pushing through. At the
end of the day, I believe football builds so much courage in players that it can influence
them to make change and make the world a better place.


39

Chapter 6:
Does It Really Matter?


If you have made it this far, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read
my book and seeing what I had to say. No matter how you feel towards the points I have
presented, I still respect and appreciate you for taking the time out of your day.
Throughout this book, I gave my best efforts to demonstrate how important
football can be. While my methods and approaches may have been a little unorthodox, I
hope my readers are able to connect to the chapters at some type of level.
After playing football for over half of my life, it has grown on me tremendously. I
believe thats evident in my decision to write this book. Its one of the greatest sports to
participate it in, and theres many reasons for that.
Once kids reach the high school
level, football has the capability of affecting
players in extraordinary ways. On top of
equipping athletes with characteristic traits
that are exchangeable for the adult world, it
gives them lasting memories with their
friends and teammates.
At the end of the day, football does
matter. Its so much more than just a game
for everyone involved. Its not always about
winning and losing. Sometimes, it can become
Heres to all the memories I will continue to make
through football I cant wait!
40

a lifestyle beyond the gridiron, and thats what makes it worthwhile.