Tony caught up with Wallers’ Gene Johnson during their practice on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
Tony: First up, you are coming from a successful program at Cy Ranch, so why move to Waller?
Coach Johnson: I spent 11 years at Ranch. Sometimes I think you can become stagnant if you aren’t real careful. It really was an opportunity for me to get out and hopefully grow as a coach. I had kind got my system in place at Ranch and had done things a certain way. I wanted to come take on a challenge and see if I could do it again.
Tony: You’ve had the summer and now a couple of days of practice. What are you seeing about the team that you like and what are you seeing that needs to improve?
Coach Johnson: As you can imagine taking over a wishbone option offense and moving to a different type of offense, and taking a three-man front defense and moving it to a four-man front defense, there’s a lot of challenges to learning schemes, and the execution part of it. So, I think those are frustrating and the things that you’d like to see look better. The thing I keep harping on with the kids is the progress. If we are a little bit better today than we yesterday and if we are a little bit better tomorrow than we were today, as a coach you can feel good about it. That’s what I feel really good about – the kids, the work ethic, they are getting better every day. How quickly we can get to where we need to be, I don’t know. But as long as we keep getting better every day, it gives us a chance to get there.
Tony: Along those lines “getting there”, there will be a moment when you look out a say, “they got it”. What does that moment look like to you?
Coach Johnson: I think it’s going to be when we are executing and competing. Sometimes those two go hand-in-hand. When you feel like you don’t have a chance to win, you can’t really focus on the task, you can’t focus on your job, so you are doing some things – jumping offsides, false starts, dropping snaps – you are doing things from an execution stand point that you might not normally do. We have to first learn to fight and keep playing hard. We may get behind. We may get ahead. We just have to keep playing hard. The second part of that is when our execution starts looking clean – we are fitting on the run well, we are covering the pass, we are covering the deep ball well, we are staying engaged at the line of scrimmage, we are finishing blocks – when the effort and the execution kind of merge up will be the point were I can look back and say that we are getting close to what I kind of want it to look like.
Tony: If there’s one thing you want the community to know about a Gene Johnson coached football team, what it that?
Coach Johnson: I’m not going to be fair here because I’m not going to answer that question. I’m going to say if there’s one thing I want them to know about the WALLER football team, it’s what incredible kids we have. Don’t get me wrong, we had good kids at the school where I came from. These kids are just awesome kids. That’s the thing I hope our community knows. They may see them make mistakes and they may see them get frustrated in a game and see some things that may be a little out of character for them, but they are awesome kids. They are great kids. I guess if I answered your questions, I would just want people to say a Gene Johnson coached team is disciplined, it goes back to that execution point. We can’t give ourselves a change to win if we are executing and you have to be disciplined to execute.
Tony: What impressed me the most so far today is the organization of the practice. It just seems to be oriented to keep things intense. Kind of hectic on purpose so that when kids get in situations they automatically know how to respond.
Coach Johnson: No doubt. I’ve learned through the years from a lot of other great coaches, that the game should be easier than practice, otherwise we are failing the kids if we are creating an environment that’s easy at practice and then we get into a game and it’s hard. It’s hard of the kids to then turn and succeed in that environment. It’s probably coach speech in a lot of terms but we try to do as much as we can to simulate games and make things tough here so that when we get in the game, hopefully, they will say that this is easier than practice.