The last game Nathan Padgett coached at Owen High School finished with an uncomfortable silence lingering in Warhorse Stadium.
But today, just over a year after accepting the head coaching position at his alma mater, Padgett has a system in place he believes will help the Warhorses improve on last year’s 1-9 season.
In his first year as a head coach, Padgett inherited a team that lost the vast majority of its starting players from a historical run in 2014. He also had only four months to prepare for the 2015 season.
Much of Padgett’s first season coaching the Warhorses revolved around building relationships with players he was still getting to know. “It was difficult coming in so late in the year and trying to install a system in a short amount of time,” he said.
This year he has had the opportunity to focus more on football. The year has brought about change for Padgett, who began his sophomore campaign by implementing his off-season workout program, one that began in earnest in December. The program requires players to work out almost daily, whether in the weight room or outside doing speed agility drills.
Padgett charts the progress of each player in nine-week increments. He monitors improvements in the bench press, power clean and back squat. He also charts speed from the 40-yard dash and agility with the shuttle.
“The off-season is one of the most important times for a player to develop,” Padgett said. “Our players have bought into the system because they are seeing results in the weight room and on the field.”
Physicality is not the only thing that the program is intended to address. Padgett wants would like to see his players work on building leadership and strengthening the bond between one another.
“Our team voted upon seven group leaders,” Padgett said. “These group leaders are responsible for 2-3 teammates.”
He expects players to be role models in the weight room, classroom and on the football field. Padgett hopes to create a stronger ties than existed a year ago.
Last year’s team was undersized and lacked speed at key positions. Padgett expects his program to help maximize the ability of each player on the roster.
One player stood taller than most last season. Rising junior Sidney Gibbs rushed for 1,750 yards and accounted for 21 touchdowns during a difficult season. Gibbs believes there is room to improve, both individually and as a team.
“I feel that I am stronger and faster than I was last season,” he said. “My explosiveness has really increased due to the speed agility workouts that we are doing.”
Gibbs believes the team is on the same page as Padgett this off-season, which has helped change the tone. Gibbs is expected to take on more of a leadership role this season as he works to help his team improve their record from last year.
“It was hard getting to know a new coach and understanding what was expected from him so soon,” he said.
Gibbs will be running behind an undersized offensive line this season. But Padgett has a specific plan to address that. “The way to get the most out of your strength and conditioning workouts is to practice good nutritional habits.” he said.
Padgett encourages all of his players to eat six times a day. He wants them to consume less fat, eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and eat enough protein throughout the day. The emphasis on nutrition should lead to a bigger, stronger offensive line next year, he believes.
Defensive standout Cyrus Hooper, a rising senior, has seen Padgett’s approach to conditioning bring about a renewed commitment from his teammates.
“I think that we have a way better work ethic this off-season than last,” Hooper said. “We are all so anxious to get back on the field because we all still have a bad taste in our mouths from how last year ended.”