From adversity comes strength. That's a lesson Bill Vonada and the 2012 Springstead High School Eagles have learned firsthand, and are now putting to good use. The Eagles' struggles in 2011 have transformed into a hot start to the 2012 season and, this week, a special trip to One Buccaneer Place for Vonada and several others.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers named Vonada their High School Coach of the Week for Week Two of the 2012 season. So far this fall, Vonada has led the Eagles to a dominant 2-0 start in which they have outscored their opponents 86-0.
That comes on the heels of the Eagles' least successful season in a decade. In 2011, Springstead finished 4-6 (winning one game via forfeit) and endured their first losing season since 2002. Several key injuries hurt the team's chances, but the Eagles still gained valuable experience that has helped them rebound dramatically in 2012.
Vonada recognizes the challenges his team from Spring Hill faces on a week-to-week basis. His team typically dresses only 35 players for a game, but Vonada believes that has helped them form a strong bond that gives them an edge on game night.
"Luckily, we had a lot of guys buy into what we are teaching," Vonada said. "We have 35 guys and we feel pretty comfortable putting any of them on the field. We have guys that feel confident in what they are doing, they are playing hard, and they care about each other."
Player safety is also a focus with Vonada. Great pride is taken at Springstead in educating players and teaching the proper technique to ensure the health of their athletes.
"That's been a thing with us since the very beginning," Vonada said. "Every year, one of the first things we do as a coaching staff, before the season ever starts, is go over our safety plan, our procedures and our emergency action plan."
On Thursday, Vonada visited One Buccaneer Place along with assistant coaches Mike Garofano and Dustin Kupcik as well as linebacker Joe Predoel. The group was led through the Buccaneers' state-of-the-art facility and then brought to the field to watch the team practice. Head Coach Greg Schiano greeted the group on the sideline and congratulated Vonada on his honor. In addition to Thursday's visit, the Eagles were recipients of a $1,000 donation to benefit the school's football program and support players like Predoel, who was an easy choice to accompany the coaches on the special trip to the Buccaneers' home.
In his coach's eyes, Predoel embodies everything Springstead aims for out of their student athletes.
"He is just a guy that gets so much out of his ability, he is exactly what we are looking for," Vonada said. "He had such a tremendous game last week and I couldn't have been happier because he works so hard for you."
Predoel, like Vonada, acknowledged that while individual achievements are special, they come secondary to the success of the team.
"We want to go to the playoffs," Predoel said. "I'll do my job, and anything that comes with it will come with it."
The Buccaneers will honor 10 high school coaches from Central Florida during this year's prep football season. A Coach of the Year, who receives an additional $1,000 for his football program, will be selected from the 10 weekly winners at the end of the season. The Buccaneers and the National Football League's Coach of the Week program aids in the development of youth football, which has a positive influence on young athletes and the communities in which they live.