Wayne Hills football coach Wayne Demikoff has never questioned his team’s ability or talent.
He has, however, gotten on the Patriots for what he perceives as a lack of mental toughness at times, noting the players need to work through the grind of two-a-day practices and be stronger for it at the end of the sessions.
So, on Aug. 20, as the team prepared for the second of its workouts, Demikoff called a quick meeting in the locker room prior to the start of the afternoon session.
“I’ve been challenging you guys to knock people down, right?” Demikoff barked as the players said “Yes, Coach.”
“Well, now I’m going to find out who the toughest guys are,” Demikoff said, trying to keep a straight face. “And some of you might get some rewards for the most knock downs. I want you guys to get ready, because (drum roll), WE’RE GOING BOWLING.”
The players didn’t quite get it for a second, but then quickly realized that the afternoon session would be spent in an air-conditioned bowling alley close by to the school, instead of donning pads and helmets under the 80 degree sun. The hooting and hollering were a release of energy for the kids and Demikoff had to revert to his whistle to get the team’s attention.
Assistant coach Jon Goldstein was the main force behind the event, having planned the afternoon out a few weeks ago, ‘Goldy’ even had lane assignments for all the players, from freshmen through seniors.
“Any guys who have been injured,” Demikoff said, “you’ll be coming, but you’re not bowling. Just be a part of it.”
The afternoon off was a welcomed relief for the team, which had a spirited, hard-hitting practice earlier in the day.
“It was encouraging,” Demikoff said. “We saw some kids work through it today and get little tougher and that’s what it’s going to take to get to where we’re capable of. Montclair is coming in here on Friday, and believe me, they’re not playing around. We need to answer that challenge.”
The bowling went well for the Patriots, who genuinely seemed to enjoy the time away from football, but with their teammates.
“Sometimes you need a chance to do something different and get away from the grind,” Demikoff said. “This was fun.”