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New Sidewinders coach takes hippie approach in quest to snap 38-game losing streak
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing but expecting different results.
San Luis' new coach Mark Shields is ready to stop the madness.
The Sidewinders are entering the season on a 36-game losing streak — a streak they don't intend to extend.
“We've taken a look, the coaches and I, at what hasn't worked in the past,” Shields said. “We're not doing the long practices because they don't bring you any value. That's that idea of Kaizen — Japanese manufacturing — if it doesn't bring you value get rid of it. ... We're doing those things that we think are going to work.”
Shields has adapted a laissez faire, almost hippie-like attitude when it comes to coaching. He's leaving the responsibility of whether his players play or not completely up to them. Basically if you don't show up, you're not going to play.
“I was never a great athlete,” he said. “I worked my butt off for everything. I lifted weights all the time, I ran. I didn't like to see dad's son get to play because he's dad's son. I try to keep everything fair.”
Though this is Shields' first head coaching gig, he's bringing a wealth of experience to his new position. He's played at the college level for Scottsdale Community College and Northern Arizona University — and played under NFL coaches Andy Reid, Brad Childress and Bill Callahan during his time there.
Locally, Shields has spent time coaching at Kofa and Yuma High School as well as Arizona Western College. But for the last few years he's been on the Sidewinders' sidelines, feeling the same emotions that his players have through their winless period.
“I've seen a lot of different styles and I think I've pulled from each one,” Shields said. “I'm not a yeller, I'm not a cusser. I don't believe in running kids on endless laps. For me, conditioning should be a thing a kids wants to do. I don't want to make it into a punishment. Pretty much the things I hated as a player I'm not going to do to these kids.”
The new attitude is rubbing off not only onto the players but through the entire school. It's the beginning of a new era for the Sidewinders, one filled with a renewed sense of pride in their football team.
“This year is different, we're a team now,” senior cornerback/nose guard Alfredo Garcia said. “This year San Luis High School is dedicated to a collaborative culture of respect and high achievement. We're all working together, all of San Luis High School — we're a team.”
San Luis is not taking baby steps to rebuild their image; they are going all out to revamp their football culture. Instead of just the team travelling to away games, they are taking their school spirit on the road by bringing the cheerleaders, dancers and band along for the action. The goal is not to just begin winning games and break the losing streak but to increase participation and interest in the sport in a school where soccer and baseball reign supreme.
“We want to leave our mark in football,” senior fullback/linebacker Luis Rodriguez said. “We want to teach them (the younger classes) that football is all about responsibility and dedication.”
It's no easy task and it doesn't come without nerves. Shields knows he's got big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of a coach like Gila Ridge's Jay Denton, who despite winning state championships during his time with Eloy-Santa Cruz, was unable to find success with the Sidewinders.
“Coach (Jay) Denton, I think he had two or three wins here,” Shields said. “How are we going to do better than that? That is a little intimidating right there. I'm a firm believer that anything can happen on a Friday night. You've just got to put it all out on the field.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6880. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSErinRedmond.
San Luis Sidewinders
Last year: 0-10 overall, did it not advance to the playoffs
Top returners: Coach Mark Shields did not name any top returners.
Key newcomers: Shields did not name any key newcomers.
The Big Game: The biggest game for the Sidewinders is the first one. San Luis will travel to Yuma High, bringing their new sense of confidence with them. It will be a true test to see if the new approach to football at San Luis has made a difference.
San Luis coach Mark Shields' comments: “We want to win games and be competitive in every game. We know we're not going to win every game. Our backs are up against it right now. Even though we have high numbers, we have low numbers compared to the other schools. ... We've got to break this losing streak, we're talking 36 games. The state record is 64 games, so we're more than half way there now.”
The lowdown: The Sidewinders are looking for a fresh start with a new coaching staff and a new approach to their program. But there is still a lack of knowledge about the game of football since there isn't a Pop Warner system in town. On the plus side, San Luis has come together in a way they never have before, ready to take on their opponents as a unified front. Their numbers are increasing due to the new system of doing things, which means talented players who may have shied away in the past may find themselves in a helmet and pads on Friday Night. The Sidewinders will be tested early, facing Yuma High in week one. It's here that they will discover whether the changes have allowed them to hold their own against the local schools.
Schedule (all times 7 p.m. unless noted):
Aug. 24 at Yuma High
Aug. 31 at Antelope
Sept. 7 vs. Lake Havasu
Sept. 14 at Palo Verde
Sept. 21 at Kofa
Sept. 28 vs. Calipatria
Oct. 5 at Cibola
Oct. 12 at Gila Ridge
Oct. 19 vs. Kofa
Oct. 26 vs. Cibola
— Erin Redmond