When most think of a ‘County Fair’, the thought of rides, funnel cakes and funhouse mirrors might immediately spring to mind. But Scotland head football coach Richard Bailey’s definition of a county fair differs ever so slightly, as the Fighting Scots players discovered first-hand.
For the first 30 minutes of every ninth grade, JV and varsity Scotland practice, the Fighting Scots each pay a visit to Bailey’s county fair. That is, eight different drill stations involving cart pushes, monkey rolls and agility exercises that players must endure for two minutes at a time before rotating to the next station.
With official team pictures set for Friday morning, Bailey knows it’s time to weed out those deserving to wear the Fighting Scots uniform.
“It’s the county fair, where I hand out popcorn and candy and tell players to ride all the rides,” said Bailey with a laugh. “Except my county fair isn’t that much fun. But we’ve stepped up the intensity around Scotland and I expect these guys to follow suit.”
Last Wednesday, Scotland linebacker Artemis Robinson led his eight-player team, donned in black t-shirts, to their first victory of the young season. Competing against seven other teams comprised of future Fighting Scots, Robinson’s team outpaced the other Scotland athletes in a series of drills to win Bailey’s “BCS Championship,” a workout competition which he started at Jack Britt and introduced at the start of Scots’ mini-camp.
The eight players on the team, including Robinson’s brother and strong safety Robert McCoy, will be rewarded later this week by getting the chance to sit out of Bailey’s county fair festivities, along with the other three BCS teams who made it to the final four of the competition. Other Scotland football hopefuls will receive a similar reward on Friday for fulfilling 100 percent of Bailey’s summer workout expectations.
The work-reward system that Bailey devised was employed to great success at Jack Britt, and will be a recurring theme for the Fighting Scots players who make their mark on the program this season and beyond.
“What I do is a bit different than what a lot of players are used to, but it’s worked well for me in the past,” Bailey said. “I want to push competition amongst the players and see them want to better themselves.”
Bailey’s ‘work hard and you will be noticed’ approach to practice is perhaps why his past JV teams at Jack Britt would often see a vast majority of freshman on the squad. It’s part of a revolving door philosophy that allows ninth graders the chance to be bumped up or down between the ninth grade and JV teams based on their level of play, work ethic and leadership qualities. It can occur at any time during the season, which in Bailey’s eyes will provide each younger player even more incentive to perform their very best on the field on a week-to-week basis.
“At Jack Britt most of my JV guys were freshman, and the really good sophomores earned the right to move up to varsity,” Bailey said. “It’s extremely rare, but I’ve had instances where freshman players made the varsity team before. Once cuts are made to my teams, nothing is set in stone and players can move up or down based on how well they do.”
Helping Bailey to push players this season will be several new faces to the Scots’ coaching staff, who will be joining program mainstays including Jamie Coleman, Norman Quick, and the father-son duo of William and Will Clark. New JV head coach Joe Cullen is a former Arkansas State University quarterback with several successful coaching stints under his belt, and he will be joined by Paul Adams and Billy Drake, the latter of which is a relative newcomer to the coaching realm but impressed Bailey with his intelligence and positive attitude. Coaching the ninth grade wide receivers this season will be Fighting Scots’ football player Matt Quick, who along with father Norman forms the second father-son coaching tandem at Scotland.
And on the varsity level, Keith Wood was slated to join Bailey at Jack Britt prior to Bailey’s decision to become the head coach of the Fighting Scots. But once Bailey’s decision was made, Wood opted to follow him to Scotland County as a wide receivers coach, leaving behind an impressive resume which includes a stellar stint at Fairmont High School. As the Fairmont head coach last season, Wood led the Golden Tornadoes to an undefeated regular season and 12-1 overall record, losing in the second round of the 2-A state playoffs.
“Coach Wood was a huge coup for me, as were all of the coaches that were added in the offseason,” Bailey said. “I believe we’re going to be successful every year here at Scotland, and we need coaches that can help make that happen.”
For the players who have learned Bailey’s definition of a county fair, it should come as no surprise that their new coach deals out hard work and rewards in near-equal abundance. Those who made the trip with Bailey to Appalachian State University two weekends ago were treated to unforgettable mountain scenery, top notch facilities and recruiting opportunities presented to them by the Mountaineer coaching staff.
But make no mistake: it was a business trip in every sense, as the four-a-day practice sessions and playbook crash courses clearly demonstrated. Yet, as he played the role of silent observer on the bus rides to and from the university, Bailey noticed his players taking snapshots with their cell phone cameras and posting the images immediately to Facebook and Twitter.
In his limited time as the Fighting Scots head football coach, that balance is precisely the tone Bailey wants to set in Scotland County.
“A lot of these guys had never seen the mountains or anything related to Appalachian State, so I’d like to think we created some memories for them,” Bailey said. “I’ve had to learn my way around all the social networking websites kids use over the years, but to see them enjoy and share their experiences meant the world to me as their new coach.”