Thursday, August 30, 2012

"The Turnaround" Day 2 inside Lubbock High School Football

By Jason Strunk
Head Football Coach
Lubbock High School
Lubbock, Texas

A Football Family

Tracy & Jason Strunk at Purdue with
Daughter Kennedy & Son Mac
In our profession we always preach terms such as team, family, commitment etc. We always mention those terms to our team. I'm no different. In fact, we just spent ten months driving those things into our player's heads. However, I feel in our profession we need to apply those terms to our own home front and give our loved one's some credit.

My wife Tracy, also a Northampton High grad, has been with me since 1998. She has seen a lot of football games. She has also broken down a lot of game film with me late at night. What other profession can you spend time with your wife like that? She can tell you what a Cover 2 defense is doing. She will also question my play calls. You have to take the good with the bad I guess.

When you talk about team, family and commitment how can you leave your wife out of that equation? Talk about commitment. Tracy has moved to three different states along this crazy path called coaching. That doesn't include the job offers I turned down in Colorado, California and Arizona. With each interview it adds more stress. Where are we going to be living is a big deal to your spouse. Through it all she has never wavered one bit. Always up for the next challenge. She rebuilds these programs with me. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Jason's son Mac at Purdue
Along the way we have expanded our family. Our son Mac is now 11. He has been enrolled in schools in Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana and now Texas. You want a team player? There is an example of one right there. He has never complained. He just flat-out enjoys it. He loved our time at Purdue. We also added our daughter to the mix while we were in Florida. Kennedy was born in 2009 while I was coaching in Tampa. She is now 3 going on 23. When I think of Kennedy I envision the little girl from "Remember the Titans." I have a feeling she will be all over the refs in years to come.

With all of our hectic schedules, sporting events, gymnastics and temper tantrums, somehow Tracy manages to keep it all rolling right along. Team, family and commitment. It is everywhere you look in the Strunk family dynamic!

Why Lubbock?

Following our 2010 season at Purdue, I realized I missed running my own program. I also missed working with high school kids. Two stints coaching college football was a great experience. For me though, however, I feel you can make a bigger impact in kid's lives on the prep level. When it boiled down to it I missed building the relationships with players. I needed to get back to high school ball.

I made a decision. We lost a tough game to Indiana in overtime to finish our season at Purdue. That night I told Tracy it is time to run my own program again. There was a catch this time though. If I was going to leave Purdue, a Division I school, it was going to be for a place where football is king. A place where football is the crown jewel. Where can I go coach Division I football but do it on the high school level? Texas. It was Texas or I was staying at Purdue. So I made the decision that I was going to Texas. The only problem was nobody in Texas knew of my decision. That was a large problem to have!

Like all coaches, I got on the phone and started working "my network". Nothing was coming up. Then one day I saw a job posting for Lubbock High School. After a quick internet search, I discovered Lubbock fit all of my criteria when looking for a job: struggling and needing to do a major rebuild! What else could you ask for? It was the perfect job!

Lubbock High School
Lubbock, Texas
I called a friend of mine, Chad Scott. He is the Running Backs coach at Texas Tech University. Chad, as luck would have it, was a Plant City High grad. He visited me quite a bit while I was in Florida. We developed a great relationship over the course of my time at Plant City. Chad placed a call for me and got my name into the mix, so to speak. I received a call from LISD in December 2010. They wanted to interview me after the New Year. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Lubbock to interview for the position. It happened fast. I believe on January 8, 2011 I was introduced as the new HC/AD at Lubbock High.

The question I receive all the time is, why did you leave Purdue to come to Lubbock? The answer is simple. Lubbock is a great place to live, raise a family and coach football! The bonus? Rebuilding a tradition rich school that is hungry for success! Rebuilding programs allows you to put your own stamp on things. I truly believe we will turn this program around. I would not have come here if I didn't believe it!

Attitude and mental toughness... they are the key components in rebuilding football programs.


Reprinted courtesy of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
All I knew about Lubbock before we moved was that Buddy Holly was from here. It is pretty neat to be the Head Coach at the same school Buddy Holly attended. Aside from that, and knowing Texas Tech was in Lubbock, I did not know much about it.

Living here for over a year now I have learned a lot. It is a great city! It is also a great football city. Texas Tech is huge here and the city rallies around the Red Raiders. High School football is everything I expected it to be here too. I absolutely love coaching here. Nothing better than being on the sidelines every Friday night in Texas!

LHS has a strong football tradition. We have 3 state titles to our credit. Not many schools can claim that. Those state championship teams were from 1939 and the other two were from the early 1950's. At one point, LHS was the west Texas football power. The trophy cases in the school's main hallway are impressive. There is a sense of nostalgia walking through those proud hallways.

If you want tradition, LHS has it! Our goal is to restore that proud tradition!

The Rebuild

Inside Lubbock HS Locker Room
LHS has a proud tradition. The people of Lubbock and the alumni of LHS want us to turn this program around. When I speak to people about LHS they answer me with a sense of pride and they speak with emotion. The bottom line is people love LHS. The black and gold carries a lot of weigh around here.
In 1975, The Westerners won the District Championship. Since 1976, however, LHS has struggled, mightily.

Between 1976 and 2011, LHS has had one season where it reached .500 and that was back in 1998. Basically, since reaching the playoffs in 1975, LHS has had no winning seasons and zero playoff appearances. Right now, we are currently on a 22-game losing streak. The Westerners last won a game on October 23, 2009.

How do we snap this streak? The answer to that question will come through in these blogs over the course of this season. Right now, all I can tell you is where we started.

After year one, the coaching staff sat down and outlined our major areas of concern. We felt, as an entire program, we lacked mental toughness, attitude, discipline and size. The X's and O's weren't the problem. It was a combination of everything I listed and an overall lack football knowledge. Another concern was the lack of team chemistry. After years and years of losing and hearing that they cannot win, the program took on the mentality that it could not win. Zero confidence is not the way to go about playing football.

We recognized the needs and we developed a plan to attack our weaknesses. Here it is in a nutshell:

Improve mental toughness, attitude, chemistry, pride, commitment, sense of team and develop a new level of respect for our program. If we could get all these areas improved we felt like we can reach our goal: PLAYOFFS.

For the past 10 months we lived in the weight room, focused on nutrition, trained with Marines, worked out with kick-boxers, trained and developed our own SEAL squad and partnered with Texas Tech in a leadership and nutrition seminar that lasted for 6 weeks. If you take all of these components and tie it to the areas we felt we needed to improve upon, you can see how we addressed each weakness.

The results of ten solid months of work? An average gain of 12 pounds of lean body muscle (some guys gained 30 pounds); tripled the number of 225 pound benchers since my arrival in 2011; Increased the total amount of players in the program; this summer we had 125 football players working out daily, up from about 30 players the year before; increased mental toughness and attitude; the best chemistry of any team I have ever coached.

I would say it was a productive 10 months.

We also changed the way the players enter the building. Each coach greets them on the way into the complex with a chest slap and a smile. We make sure they have their eyes up, chest out and chin up. Confidence is everything in football. They walk with confidence now. In meetings they must sit up straight with the body posture we expect from them. There are no more signs of a program that has not won a game since 2009.

These are building blocks we have chosen to focus on in year two. So far, the results have been great.... but we are inching closer to the season and the results need to show up on the field now!

The LHS rebuild is underway!

Jeff Fisher’s Editor’s introduction: This is the second-part in a season-long series written by Lubbock head football coach Jason Strunk, who is in his second-year as head coach of the Lubbock High School Westerners in Lubbock, Texas.  The school hasn’t had a winning season since 1975 and is currently on a 22-game losing streak as it opens the season tonight on the road at Canyon.  Strunk is giving High School Football America readers and listeners an inside look at what it takes to turnaround a high school football program in the football-crazed state of Texas.

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