By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Most coaches talk about instilling toughness into their teams, but when Liberal High School’s Caleb Cline says it, there is something authentic about the words.
It’s not poetry. It’s not a smooth cliche. Cline’s expectations on the Angry Red football program are matter-of-fact, and every player knows what they will get from their head coach, starting with practices that will be highly intense.
“We have to learn how to practice first, and what a practice looks like,” Cline said. “There are no breaks in between. You might get a squirt of water and that’s it. We have to get tougher. That’s done by being treated rougher and expecting more. We have to have higher expectations with this group, and I think they plan to put that on themselves anyway.”
If they don’t, he will and already has by pushing athletes during the summer, and having the players respond.
“We had commitment,” he said. “We had guys that worked in the weight room until 1 a.m. or started at 6:30. Commitment is the main thing. We have kids that don’t care if they have to give up some sleep, some pain, some discomfort. They will show up to work, and that’s the exciting thing. There’s a core group, and that’s the exciting part.
That core involved LHS athletes that continued to show up on a consistent basis, something Cline said is critical to success.
“We had 40 boys and 15 girls that were very constant,” he said. “We had a good group of cheerleaders that were always there, and a group of boys that were always there. That is what we need — consistency. It wasn’t just football players either. There were basketball guys, baseball guys. Consistency in the summer breeds something good in the fall and the rest of the sports.”
Cline also worked to instill his attitude of teamwork, taking the spotlight off of any specific player and pushing for recognition of a group effort.
“Out attitude is we want to be unselfish,” he said. “I don’t care if I score as long as we score. It doesn’t matter who gets in the end zone, who gets a catch or the credit. We will always praise the offensive line and defensive line anyway. They do a lot of the work and get very little of the credit. We will be based off of what we can do in the trenches, and that is going to decide how we play.”
Being physically prepared for the rigors of football was another area where Cline’s expectations will be high. As a player under legendary coach Gary Cornelsen who won four state championships coaching the Redskins in the 1990s, Cline has a history of the sacrifice required to achieve goals.
“We are getting in shape,” he said. “If you are tired you are a coward. You can’t make a coward out of us. If one guy is weak, he won’t fire off hard. We are getting in shape. We are faster, our strength went up, we have team chemistry. That is what we want, that is what we learned this summer, and we will go from there.”
Three more fun runs will begin at the LHS parking lot at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 6:30 p.m. Thursday prior to the preseason pep rally at Redskin Field.
The community is invited to jog with the athletes, ride bikes or follow in their vehicles.
The first day of practice is Aug. 18, and the season opener for the Redskins will be at home Sept. 5 when Liberal hosts Ulysses.