By Bryan Davis
Yesterday, kids began to pour back into the schools in West Point. Members of the recent state champion football team at West Point were no exception. By the time seventh period came around, every member of the Green Wave team knew where to be.
After a rare two-week break for Christmas, the Green Wave hit the weight room and began lifting toward another run at the 5A state championship in 2011.
These guys know the routine. They know what it takes to win.
In fact, two full days had not passed by after winning the 2010 title before they were back in the weight room, pumping iron.
It’s not just that football is a way of life for the state champs. Winning has become a way of life, and Green Wave head coach Chris Chambless knows that there is only one way to bring home the glory.
“I’ve always been taught to work hard,” Chambless said. “I try my best to rub off on the kids. The coaches that we bring in here are in the same mold. The only way you’re going to have success is work hard.”
Chambless credits former West Point head coach Dennis Allen with ingraining that work ethic into him when he served as Defensive Coordinator under Allen.
“He (Allen) made a lasting impression on me that you almost have to be stubborn to the point where you push the kids so hard that you question yourself sometimes, do I need to slack up,” Chambless said. “When you start questioning yourself, then that’s when you know that you have to keep pushing it.”
When Allen and Chambless arrived in West Point, they were tasked with rebuilding a program that already had a storied past.
“The program was down from where it should have been, and where it had been,” Chambless said. “We jumped in there and worked their (players) tales off. On Thursdays before games, we were in the weight room pumping iron, and the kids got the message that we weren’t going to get any better until we got stronger.”
Three state championships later, Chambless has no intention of changing his or his team’s work ethic.
“Just because it’s during the season, we don’t stop,” Chambless said. “We still lift. We get into a routine, and we don’t veer off from it.”
The Green Wave routine is seldom interrupted. Their recent two-week break for the holidays is by far the longest the team will have in the year’s span. A week off for Spring Break, and another absent at the start of the summer mark the only times the West Point players are not either lifting weights or are on the practice field.
Chambless says the first thing his coaches will do this year is max the players out in the weight room. They will then work out in eight-week cycles and will re-max every eight weeks.
“One thing we work on is getting them in shape,” Chambless said. “We want to have them in good physical condition so we can push them.”
The Green Wave will lift through the winter, in preparation for an always important Spring practice. This will last about a month, and it will culminate in a practice game.
After the team’s short break at the start of the summer vacation, they return to the field house to get ready for the fall.
During the summer, there is a minimum number of days a player has to show up in order to see playing time. For some extra incentive, there is a maximum number to show to get a name on the back of the jersey.
The team participates in a seven-on-seven passing league, and the defense shows up twice a week in the hot summer afternoons for reps on the field.
By the time most teams are in two-a-days, the Green Wave are in shape and honing their skills. This is something they will do until final down of the season.
“From the first day of practice until the last day of practice, we still tackle,” Chambless said. “We don’t let up just because we’re getting decent at it. We want to be the best we can be at it.”
It’s that “be the best we can be” attitude that keeps the players and coaches on their toes, even through the best of times.
“We always find something to praise them on, but we always find something to improve on,” Chambless said. “We want that mentality that we can get so much better than we are. As long as we take that mentality into each game, we’ll be successful.”
Chambless said that after West Point’s 47-0 massacre of Ridgeland, in the North Half title game, his players were not above reproach.
“The first thing we did was go watch film, and we knocked them down a notch,” Chambless said. “We told them yeah we had a pretty good game, but look at how much better we can be. We want to strive to be perfect.”
The constructive criticism dealt by the West Point coaches does not fall on deaf ears. These players have bought into the system, and they are constantly trying to improve the program.
“That’s what’s so special around here,” Chambless said. “They don’t try to get out of things. I’ve been at schools where the kids spend 90 percent of their time trying to get out of doing something.”
Chambless said that accountability partners in the weight room make certain that all reps are done and done right, and the veteran coach has also been impressed with the initiative many of his players take over the course of the year.
“If we need to do something extra, it’s usually the kids who say we need to do something extra,” Chambless said. “They do a good job in that aspect.”
The Green Wave are going to have their parades, dinners and ring ceremonies over the coming months, but right now, inside that field house, it’s business as usual.
“We’re pretty humble now,” Chambless said. “After we won it in 2009 last year, I told them they had two choices. I told them they can be content because they got a ring in their high school career or they can go back for another one. If you go back for another one, this one is over with. You can be proud you got it, but you can’t celebrate it everyday.”
Chambless says that his returning group is refocused and have their sights on the 2011 season.
“You can tell our guys are focused and are working hard on winning another one,” Chambless said. “They’re not out here being happy go lucky because they won it this year.”
The Green Wave will open up the 2011 season, at home, against South Panola.