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Autry: The ‘bad’ & ‘ugly’ are over ... we hope

Sometimes it isn’t what you say, but rather what you did not say. Politicians nationwide are famous for such a tactic.
However high school football coaches – in a far-less slimey way -- also can adhere to the same creed when they want to put the last season behind them.
Greg Manior, Screven County’s head coach, chose the more positive route when he spoke with the parents of this year’s Gamecock squad just prior to SCHS’s football camp last week.
Rather than rehash the on-the-field and uglier off-the-field ills of Gamecocks’ 2010 misfortunes, the program’s skipper stuck to a more uplifting game plan inside the on-campus Harold Lee Scott Gym, known for years for its epic basketball battles, but not for its good acoustics. Across the gym floor from Manior, his players were inflating their air mattresses and talking amongst themselves at what would be normal levels, but in the gym it instead is like a NASCAR race being run in your ear drum.
I and the football parents – despite all of us leaning with our best listening ears forward -- may not have been able to really hear all of Manior’s comments; I believe we all got the jest of it.
Manior said he was “anxious” to get this – his second year as the SCHS main man – started.
“It is very important they make every practice,” Manior told the parents of their offspring. The head coach noted that last season some parents weren’t too pleased their sons did not get as much playing time because the student-athletes missed practices during the week.
Make a mental note of this as you keep reading.
“Nobody on this team has a starting position. They are here to fight for their positions,” Manior explained. “They have to be ready to go.
“From last year until now, we have had a totally different team,” he said.
Also log that comment into your thoughts.
“Every time we step onto the field we try to instill to our players we can win every single down and every single play,” Manior informed the parents.
The head coach mentioned that yes the coaching staff and the players want to ring up a “W” each Friday night, but the instructors also want the students to walk away from what they learn from the game as better, more productive members of society.
The coach said he has been “real satisfied” with the off-season workouts and the football camp. It is a no-complaining, committed group of players.
In his talk with the players’ parents, Manior emphasized the “good.” No disrespect to Clint Eastwood’s 1966 shoot ‘em up bang bang, but I believe you must delve into the “bad” and the “ugly” to fully absorb the significance of the “good.”
To truly comprehend the magnitude of last season, we painfully have to revisit the low points. For an outsider who only checks box scores and overall team records, 2010 may just look like an off-year for the Gamecocks, who finished 3-7 and, at times, did not look like they were prepared to play when the opening whistle blew.
However to those individuals close to the program, the horror that was 2010 wasn’t completely limited to the scoreboard on Friday nights Manior would tell the Gamecock faithful at the annual SCHS football banquet on a December 2010 evening.
Mere weeks before Santa would bring presents to all of Screven County’s good boys and girls, Manior unwrapped a bag full of the coal he had dealt with during the season. He laid it on the line of how he had some players steal personal items from their teammates; had players laugh at the miscues of their fellow teammates in practice instead of pumping them up to do better; had players use an endless supply of pitiful excuses instead of working out in the weight room; had players who didn’t attend school or practices regularly; and had players who simply quit playing with desire on Friday nights.
Manior stressed the problems were not with all of his 86 student-athletes, but, as the coach himself stated, football is like a family. Even the actions of one can affect the entire unit.
Changes, the head coach said, would be implemented to put the kibosh on the problems.
“If you get caught stealing, Sheriff (Mike) Kile is coming. I am going to tell him to cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em,” Manior told the parents at the banquet now eight months in the past.
On that evening with its outside temperatures 50 degrees cooler than the 100-plus broiler we are experiencing now, a majority of the parents in attendance did not raise an eyebrow at the coach’s comments because their sons were victims of locker room thefts of wallets, iPods and cell phones.
Manior chose not to make all the 2010 Gamecock players run as punishment until the guilty confessed.
“Some parents said, ‘Have them run.’ Well I can’t have the kid who got his phone stolen from him running right beside the guy who stole the phone,” Manior said in December. “Teammates don’t take things that do not belong to them. We had a problem with players taking stuff. I am not going to let it happen any more. It would be nice if you could leave items like that, but you can’t.”
Manior said, “I am going to fix it.”
Well coach – at least from my initial observation – these student-athletes police themselves. That should keep the sheriff as a spectator and not an enforcer.
The players on this year’s team are not on the roster to steal from the teammates. They rather want to play as a team that will instead steal the pride away from their opposition.
While last year’s Gamecocks had upstanding individuals, it also unfortunately had its share of “me” players. Without naming names, the narcissist grouping were the ones who would make a big play and then go a series of plays totally ignoring their blocking assignments which, in turn, counteracted any earlier yardage gained. This year’s team may be less athletic than the 2010 version, but this 2011 team is less likely to take plays off.
I’ll take a no-quit team over a who-knows-if-they-will-show-up team any time.
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” – let’s all hope for the “good.” We got our fill of the bad and ugly in the last campaign.

Enoch Autry is the publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.