Successful coaching, at its roots, is all about teaching. At Strawberry Crest High School, football coach John Kelly not only instructs his players on the Xs and Os on the field, but guides his players on how to be strong men of character off of it.
That character has been tested in the first four years of the school's existence, with the Chargers amassing only 10 total wins and working through three different head coaches. Last Friday, However, Kelly's team moved to 2-1 on the year with a 21-14 victory over Steinbrenner High School, matching their win total from 2011 in the process.
As a result, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have named Kelly their High School Coach of the Week for Week Three of the 2012 season. Kelly, 32, is in his first year as the Chargers' head coach.
Despite this newfound success after a tough start for the program, winning isn't the sole focus for Kelly's team. The goals at Strawberry Crest are to work hard and never quit.
"The thing about hard work is that you may not see the fruits of it right away," said Kelly. "You are going to have a hard work ethic because of it, and down the road I'm hoping to have these kids become a good father someday and productive members of society."
As a result of his selection as Coach of the Week, Kelly was invited to the Bucs' headquarters on Thursday. He arrived at One Buccaneer Place with his wife Misty, daughters Juliana and Jenna, and a player from the Chargers' squad, Michael Mitchell. Kelly described Mitchell as "the type of leader I want our younger players to emulate." The group was taken on a tour of the Buccaneers' state-of-the-art training facility and invited to watch the team practice. They were soon greeted and congratulated by Head Coach Greg Schiano. In addition, Kelly received a signed certificate, a Coach of the Week embroidered Buccaneers hat and a $1,000 donation to the school's football program.
Kelly sees the Buccaneers' generosity as an opportunity to improve his own team. The $1,000 donation will provide the program with much-needed support and may assist in the future hiring of an athletic trainer.
"We are going to have to do it," said Kelly, who treats player safety as a top priority. "I am willing to champion that cause because I feel strongly that it is a necessity."
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.