When I showed up at Cedar Hill Saturday, I was a little apprehensive. The Longhorns had lost a tough game to Mansfield the previous night and I wondered if I would be walking into a tense office, on edge and trying to get things right for the playoffs. I needn’t have worried. Coach McGuire met me at the door of the field-house with a big smile and gushed about what a great game I’d missed the night before.
Changing misconceptions about high school football is a major point of this blog and the book I’m writing. The popular image of a coach is of the stern, distant Tom Landry type or the intimidating, Mike Ditka hard-ass. None of the eleven coaches I’ve spent time with remotely fit this caricature. These are men who care about kids and believe that they are building better men through their programs. Like all people, coaches have different personalities and after a few years in the business, coaches learn not to try to be someone they aren’t, but to coach in a way that fits who they are. The best coaches are the ones who have a personality that matches their program and philosophy.
Coach McGuire’s enthusiasm is not a put on, it’s who he is and it fits with the atmosphere he’s created at Cedar Hill. The Longhorns practice to music playing on the stadiums loudspeakers, the kids are often reminded to “have fun” and Coach McGuire can be seen joking with kids and yelling, “It’s a great day to be a Longhorn!” An integral part of the philosophy at Cedar Hill is to create a loose and positive atmosphere where kids want to be. None of this means Longhorn practices aren’t productive or the coaches aren’t demanding. The kids and coaches know what the goals are and when to take care of business. In the past two days I have seen a lot of excellent coaching and learning. Some might wonder if a loose atmosphere gets in the way of discipline at Cedar Hill. I’ve seen nothing to make me think this is the case and a state championship in 2006 shows the success of this model.
One of the big advantages of the Texas system is the interaction it allows the coaches to have with their players. With 18 coaches and an athletic period allowing all the coaches to see the kids during the entire year, coaches have more freedom to work with the kids on a personal level. Coach McGuire and his staff can both coach effectively and have fun at the same time. In Nevada, as in most of the country, the coach/player ratio is much larger and the hours are much fewer, leaving little time to do much beyond what is absolutely required. The Cedar Hill coaches (and the coaches of all 11 programs I’ve spent time with) do a great job in a system that supports them in providing outstanding programs.
The Cedar Hill Longhorns are 5-4, but have played possibly the toughest schedule in the entire country. On top of playing in 7-5A, which Maxpreps listed as the tenth toughest league in the country, they also played Allen (ranked 5th by Dave Campbell Texas Football), Denton Guyer (3rd in 4A) and Washington High from Miami, currently ranked 3rd in Florida. They have clinched a berth in the 5A division two playoffs and may be a real player when the postseason starts in two weeks.