New Clover coach sees room for improvement, but stays positive

Thursday, August 16, 2007

CLOVERDALE -- Like any young coach trying to make his mark on a program, first-year Cloverdale coach Kyle Winkler has brought with him changes to the program and hopes to make a positive impact.

But Winkler does not pull any punches when it comes to discussing the obstacle he sees in the way of the Clovers having a winning record.

"If this is going to be a winning program, they've got to get it in their heads that you get stronger in the summer, you learn football in the fall," Winkler said.

"The most important aspect of a winning program is summer weightlifting," he continued.

This last phrase is one he repeated several times, whether it be in an interview or in last week's meeting with players' parents. It is a frustration he has had since taking over the helm of the program on June 6. Only five of the 42 players on the Clover roster made the minimum of two weightlifting sessions per week. While each night's lifting averaged 14-15 guys, 50 were out on the first day of practice.

"Go home and tell (your kids) tonight, 'You're going to start lifting next summer,'" Winkler told the assembled parents last Thursday.

With this said, though, Winkler has liked some of what he has seen and heard from his players.

"It's been fairly positive," he said. "It's been 'yes, sir' and 'no, sir' since day one."

On the field, the Clovers will employ an I-formation power running attack.

"We are a power running team," Winkler said. "We're going to run north and south and control the ball."

Senior quarterback Zach McCallie said it was difficult adjusting to the new system from last year's wing-T, but he is getting used to the new staff's expectations.

"It was tough at first, but it become easier as these last two weeks have gone by," McCallie said.

For senior tight end Allen Kincaid, a change of position has made the adjustment has been even bigger, but he has certainly welcomed it.

"Before I was an offensive tackle, which is a big change," Kincaid said. "I'm still blocking the same, but getting the chance to get a ball is really nice."

Defensively, Winkler and staff have installed a slanting 52 defense, another big change from before.

"What we practice is getting to the ball and getting there with a bad attitude," the coach said.

Kincaid, who also plays defensive tackle, said the changes have been big on both sides of the ball.

"Basically, everybody's been in the same positions we were, just doing totally different things," he said.

One tradition Winkler is starting is a post-game meeting in the Clovers' end zone. The players will face the field with their parents behind them as the coaches address the team. The subjects in these sessions will all be positive. After the coaches have finished, players will have the chance to do the same, once again staying positive.

Finally, parents will have the same opportunity. Winkler said this would not be the time to call out kids or coaches, simply to praise the positives everyone has seen in the game.

While many coaches have been trying to avoid the heat of these last two weeks, Winkler has had his team out there in it.

"We practice in the heat of the day for two reasons: physical toughness and mental toughness," he said.

With a relatively small squad, the Clovers will have to have the conditioning to play four quarters with few breaks. Winkler feels the practice experience will help late in games.

In spite of the rigorous nature of their practices, the Clover players seem to have taken to their new leader, respecting his new system and example

"It's different, but he's a good coach and seems to know what he's talking about," Kincaid said. "Most of the players have taken to him pretty well."

"(Coach Winkler) is a very good guy," McCallie said. "He's very disciplined."

The Clovers kick of the 2007 campaign by visiting WCC opponent Speedway at 7 p.m. Friday.

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