Wednesday, December 8, 2021

A Coach’s Perspective: Philip Dean and the Championship Winning Drexel Bobcats

An Exclusive Interview with Coach Dean and Mid America Live Sports Reporter Cameron Hook just prior to last week’s championship game

Hook: For a lot of our reading audience who don’t know too much about 8-man, how
would you describe it in comparison to 11-man?

Dean: Wow, that is kind of a loaded question.. I would say there’s this notion that 8-man is a lesser brand of ball. I would offer the suggestion to just come and watch. Kids pour their heart out on the field. You’ll see a chess match between two coaches. Shootouts and blowouts. 8-man, while it is usually a little bit more offensive rather defensive in general, you still never know what you are going to get. Again, I definitely just recommend coming to watch a game if you haven’t yet, to get a good idea of what it is. 

Hook: You have a history with Miami High School as well, does that help when having players come to Drexel to play?

Dean: My first job was at Miami, which I am so thankful for. It was 8-man at the time. We made it to the state semi finals twice. I kind of acted as the bridge in some way, leading into the co-op, since I had just moved from there. Kids coming from Miami knew me and so did the kids at Drexel so it definitely helped. We appreciate having Miami with us. Though I am at Drexel now, I still have a lot of love for the Green and White.

Hook: After attending Avilla and Central Missouri for Art Education, what made you decide to continue on to Gonzaga for Sports Administration? 

Dean: I went to college for Art Ed. I went to Avilla on a sports scholarship. I always loved sports and wanted to be a high school football coach. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a sports administrator and a football coach so that is what I went and did.

Hook: As a reporter and a sports fan, I know that your mind is always on the next game on the schedule, but how does that change (if at all) when the next one is the biggest one of the season? 

Dean: That is the Interesting thing about playing for the state championship, it is unlike any other game you prepare for. Outside of the trappings of the game itself even, as there is so much going on during the week. That’s why I talked to my guys about limiting the distractions and side things that are niceties, but not necessities. It is about letting yourself enjoy the moment but not get wrapped up in it.

Hook: It is not a short bus ride from Drexel to Columbia, then on top of that you go and play on Faurot Field, how do you plan to keep the team focused heading into tomorrow with all of the possible distractions? 

Dean: Well, last week was a chance for our guys to take a long bus trip, a little shorter than the one to Mizzou will be. They got the chance to play on a field that isn’t theirs and dress in a new locker room. It was an awesome opportunity to act as practice for going to Mizzou.

Hook: There has been some talk online recently about how K-State Wildcats legendary Head Coach Bill Snyder did not believe in players being clutch or stepping up to the occasion, rather he believed that all that happened was some players just executed the fundamentals while others fell apart. Thoughts on this? To you is there a difference? 

Dean: Well far be it for me to speak over a legend such as Bill Snyder. All I know is that our program has focused on performance this year. Ya know we have really tried to create situations in practice that are similar to a game like atmosphere, where a player has to make a great fingertip catch or a great tackle. As a team, we have kind of restructured our practice this year and have gotten rid of that middling average pace. We have moved to more of a high-low model where we teach the lows but the high parts we are playing. When one of our guys has a game-breaking performance we like to make it is highlighted and they feel special. This has really paid off because you never know which one our guys is gonna do it, but ya know someone or maybe two people are good for it each game. This might be the training and fundamentals that Snyder talked about but it also might be a little bit clutch. So I’ll happily rest somewhere in the middle.

Hook: Speaking of other coaches, Whether it be through play calling, how they motivate, or how they lead their team, are there any coaches that you try to mirror or maybe that have inspired you in your own coaching?

Dean: I was very blessed as a football player cooking up with the various coaches that led me. I’m extremely grateful for my previous coaches such as Roger Batchelder and Dennis Bolton. There were some great attributes I saw in these men. Whether it be their quiet reserved strength, their sense of humbleness, their dedication to the game, or their passion. My major goal is to give to my players what was given to me. I took a lot from these guys and they had a positive impact on my life I hope my players can say the same when their tenure with me is through.

Hook: You kind of touched on this earlier when speaking about the positive reinforcement you give your players. What does a typical practice look like for the Bobcats? What strategies do you use in practice to try and build team morale? 

Dean: Sometimes coaches ask what we do because we have been successful, but the answer sounds pretty basic but we really try to work on the fundamentals. What I tell my coaches is to keep it simple. Once you think they have got it, go back and hammer it again. We try to give our guys just a few tools and what we want done with those tools. Then we try and put them in the various situations they might find themselves in a game. This lets them learn and explore what their job and role is in a game, but it also teaches them how to use those tools in various environments. We are big on teaching, not only what we want them to do, but why. Then because the game of football is just a big list of If this/then that, we teach them the more complex skills as they are ready. If you were to look at a practice early in the season compared to now, you would see we are still teaching the fundamentals we were then.

Hook: As we all know, high school football is not about just winning, but it is a nice bonus. What would you say is the predominant life lesson you try and instill in all of your players?   

Dean: Me personally, football has given a lot to me. It has provided me with every job I have had as a professional. It has brought me many great joys in life but also many great sorrows. I believe there is something about the teamwork that has to happen, the cooperation, the game plan, the craftsmanship and mastering of skills, the toughness.. That, “Oh I don’t really want to do this today, but I gotta strap up the cleats and just perform to the best of my ability.” These are all skills I find really important in life. In the game of football, it takes all types of people to be successful. Each person plays an important aspect and fills a certain role and helps lead the team to victory. If you can realize that in life it helps how you work with others. Most importantly, l hope that being a part of the Drexel football team makes my athletes happy and brings them a source of pride, enjoyment, and fulfillment. 

Hook: To wrap things up, what would you say has been the key to the recent success seen in the past two seasons from the Bobcats?

Dean: I would have to attribute all of our success to all of our players and the community that has been so supportive of them. I am extremely blessed as a coach to have the type of kids and community that I get to work with everyday. I have had a plan and they have listened the whole way. They have pushed harder and wanted more and have worked hard every step of the way. I am constantly in awe of how great these players and people are. It really makes the job easier.

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