Rice Consolidated Independent School District is a small school district which educates students from several small towns and communities in Colorado County, Texas. Rice Consolidated High School is located in the unincorporated community of Altair Texas. The High school has approximately 320 students in grades 9-12.
On Friday, October 18, 2019 I was honored to follow Rice Consolidated ISD’s Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jared Sloan throughout the day as he and the Rice Consolidated Raiders football team and his coaching staff prepared for their game that night against Boling.
Coach Sloan is in his second year coaching the Raiders after previously serving as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Hardin-Jefferson High School near Beaumont, Texas. Prior to that he was the defensive coordinator at George Ranch High School of the Lamar Consolidated ISD located in suburban Houston, Texas.
Follow along as I detail a day with the Raiders and show what Coach Sloan geos through as a coach of a small school on game day. Some details were left out as to not reveal the identity of individual students.
When I spoke with Coach Sloan earlier in the week, and asked his recommendation for breakfast in Eagle Lake where my hotel was located. He invited me to join him and his oldest daughter Emersyn for breakfast at Snowflake Donuts.
Coach Sloan lives in Eagle Lake and his wife teaches at Eagle Lake Elementary school. He has developed a Friday tradition of “daddy/ daughter time” with Emersyn at Snowflake Donuts because, according to Emersyn, they have the best donut holes.
6:50 A.M. – Snowflake Donuts in Eagle Lake
I pull up to Snowflake Donuts right behind Coach Sloan and he greats me as he’s completing his order. I place my order and we sit at a small table with Emersyn. Emersyn discusses her gymnastics from the day before. Coach Sloan and I discuss the game I covered the night before and the upcoming UIL snapshot day. Snapshot day will be in one week on Friday, October 25th when the member schools submit their 9th – 12th grade enrollments to the UIL. The UIL then uses those number to create the classifications, division, and districts that the schools compete in for the next two years. Coach Sloan discusses where he thinks Rice Consolidated and several other area schools might fall in terms of classifications and divisions. As we prepare to leave, Coach Sloan lets me know he is going to drop off breakfast for his wife Alyson at Eagle Lake Elementary and then will meet me at the high school.
I make a stop at a local convenience store and take my time driving the 11 miles to Rice Consolidated High School. I arrive at the campus at 7:35 a.m., just in front of Coach Sloan and let him pass by me in the parking lot so I can follow him to a parking space just outside the field house.
Coach Sloan drops off some items in his office and then walks around the corner and discusses several items with members of his coaching staff. One of the items discussed is the new end zone camera that the booster club has purchased for the team. The previous camera had broken and the booster club had purchased a different style of camera. This would be the first game the camera would be used.
Coach Sloan also discusses an adjustment to the team’s warm up schedule for the game. They would be celebrating both Teacher Appreciation Night and Military Appreciation Night tonight. Teacher Appreciation Night had been scheduled for a previous game that had been cancelled and had been rescheduled for this game.
Coach Sloan also discussed the Junior High and Junior Varsity games from the previous day and the district’s desire to arrange EKGs for all students in UIL activities. Coach Sloan would be presenting details on this and other items at the school board meeting on Monday night.
As the start of the school day approached, we headed to the cafeteria/ commons area of the high school. Coach Sloan stood at one end of the commons area and interacted with several athletes from several different sports and asked if they had completed and turned in particular paperwork. The Cheer Coach approached and discussed the pep rally that would be held that afternoon. Coach Sloan told her to use particular coaches in the pep rally.
After the bell to start the school day rang, Coach Sloan met with the school principal while I sat in the front office and got caught up on my note taking for the day.
After meeting with the principal, Coach Sloan checked his mail around the corner from the front office. Returning from checking his mail Coach Sloan encountered one of the athletes at the school who was late for class. As the student approached, they told Coach Sloan “I got a letter” meaning a letter from a college or university interested in them as an athlete. At this point one of my favorite moments of the day occurred. Coach Sloan asked the athlete how many times they had been late. The athlete answered with the number. “You know if you get one more it’s ISS?” The Athlete nodded. “What’s your dream college?” The athlete answered. “What happens if on the day your dream college comes to visit you are in ISS? You think they are still going to be interested in you or move on to another athlete?” I don’t know if the student will take this conversation to heart. The look on their face indicated Coach Sloan may have gotten through but only time will tell. But Coach Sloan was able to use this chance encounter as an opportunity to potentially put this student on the right path.
After this encounter Coach Sloan returned to the field house where he moved some laundry from the washer to the dryer and started a new load of laundry. Coach Sloan then returned to his office.
As he sat in his office, Coach Sloan confirmed that all paperwork was in order for the football team to depart school early the next Friday. They would be traveling to Hitchcock the next Friday. According to the coaches, the trip is about 2 and ½ hours in a school bus so they needed to leave during the school day in order to arrive at the school 2 hours before the game, eat a pregame meal, dress and warm up for the game. Coach Sloan took a call related to decorations for the new Softball and Baseball fields being built at the school. Coach Sloan also took a call from a parent concerned about how late a student had arrived home the night before after a UIL event.
Still in the office, Coach Sloan updated his team’s roster for the game and prepared a packet for the stadium announcer including his team’s roster, the Boling roster, and details for Teacher Appreciation and Military Appreciation Nights.
Coach Sloan left his office and encountered the maintenance staff replacing an electrical ballast in the bay area of the field house. He let them know that there was a ballast in his office that was nearing the need for replacement.
On this trip around campus, Coach Sloan had a brief discussion with the volleyball staff about volleyball games coming up later that day and tomorrow and had a discussion with the cafeteria staff. Coach Sloan also checked on the delivery of laundry detergent that had been ordered.
On returning to his office the electrical ballast was being replaced in his office. During this process Coach Sloan engaged in a conversation with one of the maintenance staff over one his favorite hobbies – smoking BBQ. They discussed recipes, techniques, tips and pointers while they completed replacing the ballast.
Once back in his office, Coach Sloan put decal on a helmet for a player that had been promoted to varsity for that night’s game.
During this time Coach Sloan and I discussed the illness of one of his younger daughters from the previous year. She had come down with a serious infection. She spent 30 days in the hospital while being treated. Coach Sloan emphasized the support his family had received from the school and the community as they went through this ordeal.
It was now time for the athletic period. Coach Sloan checked in with various players as game day gear was being distributed. He also walked next door and checked in on some the JV players who were in the weight room.
As he left the weight room, Coach Sloan encountered a photographer who was returning to retake the formal picture of a Junior High player whose picture hadn’t turned out well when initially taken. Coach Sloan coordinated the taking of the picture before returning to the field house.
Back in the field house, Coach Sloan sat in as the Offensive and Defensive Coordinators reviewed game field from previous games with the players. Each used the film to demonstrate certain coverages, commitments, and schemes that the players needed to focus on for the game that night. A major theme was encouraging each player to take care of their own responsibilities and maintaining discipline throughout the play.
“Play THIS play. Take care of yourself and the guy next to you. Play our style of football.”
At the end of the period, Coach Sloan addressed the team. “You are not defined by what happens on the football field. You are defined by what you learn from this experience. There are going to be games where everything seems to go wrong, just like in life you are going to have days were everything seems to go wrong. It is how you react that matters.”
After the athletic period, we ate lunch in the cafeteria. As we were eating, Coach Sloan told several of his players that the Monday practice they had hoped to do in the morning would instead be at 3 p.m.
After lunch Coach Sloan walked around the high school campus and checked on several items with various personnel. After this tour around campus, Coach Sloan returned to his office, turned on some music and settled in to review some game film.
While reviewing film, Coach Sloan had an extensive conversation with the junior high football coach about the junior high team. The discussion was wide-ranging covering specific players and performances and lasted around 20 minutes.
It was now time to head to the gym for the pep rally. The pep rally was for both the football team and volleyball team. One item in the pep rally was the varsity cheerleaders teaching some cheer moves to some of the coaches and the coaches attempting to execute those moves.
After the pep rally, Coach Sloan delivered some items to the concession stand and then returned to the field house where the team and coaches were eating a pre-game meal from Subway.
Throughout the course of the day Coach Sloan would read a page or two from an inspirational book. Now at this time, Coach Sloan attempted to relax prior to the game by watching some clips from the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”
The travel agenda for next week’s game came up once again and Coach Sloan made some adjustments to the agenda.
Coach Sloan spent an extensive amount of time discussing defensive schemes not only for tonight’s game but also defensive schemes that they may or may not be ready to introduce to the team and defensive techniques they may be or may not be ready to introduce to individual players in the near future with the defensive coordinator.
At the end of this, they called one of the players into the Coach Sloan’s office and gave him a pep talk prior to the night’s game.
Coach Sloan headed over to the football field ahead of his players who would be coming over in about 20 minutes. Coach Sloan slowly walked around the middle of the field and observed some Boling players that were warming up. Coach Sloan struck up a conversation with Boling Head Coach Kevin Urbanek. The Rice Consolidated players arrived to the field in position groups and he watched as they warmed up for the game.
Around 6:55 p.m. (35 minutes to scheduled kickoff) Coach Sloan head to the field house with the underclass members of the team. The senior players were participating in Teacher Appreciation Night. Each senior cheerleader and football player had selected a teacher to honor for the night and had written a short statement about the teacher. The stadium announcer read the statement as the cheerleader or football player escorted the teacher to the sideline in front of the home stands.
The Boling team and the game officials also headed to the locker rooms. The senior Rice Consolidated players head to the field after the completion of Teacher Appreciation Night.
Behind the fieldhouse, and well out of view of the fans in the stands, the actual coin toss for the game occurs. The coin toss that will occur later is a recreation for the fans in attendance. The coin toss is conducted in this manner in case there are any issues with the toss so that they can be resolved well before the game and any controversy doesn’t play out in front of the fans.
In this case the coin toss goes cleanly. Boling won the toss and elected to defer their option to the second half. Rice Consolidated will receive the opening kickoff.
Coach Sloan addresses the team in the field house with a final reminder to play “our style of football”.
The team heads back to the football field for the final pre-game ceremonies including the Military Appreciation Night ceremonies.
The first half of the game goes pretty much all in favor of the home team Raiders and they build a 28-6 halftime lead.
When the Raiders arrive in the field house the offensive coordinator addresses the team while Coach Sloan and the defensive coaches discuss defensive adjustments.
The defensive coordinator speaks to the team next before Coach Sloan addresses the team again. Coach Sloan’s remarks are a combination of specific reads, mechanics, and pep talk.
The second half of the game doesn’t go as well for the Raiders but they hang on for a 28-18 win.
After the game Coach Sloan addresses the team on the field. While the Raiders hadn’t played a perfect game, they had won an important district game. “It’s all about finding a way to get the job done. You did that tonight. I’m proud of you.”
After Coach Sloan addresses the team, he greets his wife and three daughters. After a few minutes with his family, he walks them to their car and they leave the stadium as he goes to the field house.
In the field house, Coach Sloan discusses blocking schemes and player performance from the game with one of his assistant coaches. Coach Sloan and all the coaches then briefly discuss details from the night’s games and the next day’s schedule.
As the players are changing in the locker room some of the typical kinds of banter occur. As one player is bragging on his performance in the game, one of the assistant coaches starts to point out to the player some of his deficiencies in the game. Coach Sloan subtly gestures to the coach not to take the criticism too far with the implication they will find a better time and approach to coach up the player.
As most of the players are showering, a few players are receiving treatment for injuries. Coach Sloan discusses a lingering injury of one of the players with the trainer.
The pace of the night’s game had been the kind of pace that Coach Sloan likes for his team with the total length from kickoff to finish of the game being 2 hours and 8 minutes. Most games in Texas High School football run just over 2 hours and 30 minutes.
10:27 PM – Coach Sloan closes up his office and heads home.
I would like to say thank you to Coach Sloan and Rice Consolidated ISD for allowing the opportunity to shadow Coach Sloan throughout the day.
I hope you enjoyed following along with me as I followed along with Coach Sloan and the Rice Consolidated Raiders. I hope this provided some insight into the life of a small school football coach and small school football in general.
In 2017 I had to opportunity to shadow Coach Heath Clawson of Lousie ISD through game day. Rice Consolidated ISD is approximately twice the size of Louise ISD. If you’d like to see the differences that happen even at the smallest levels, you can read my article from that day here.