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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

One year later, 'Team Holtz' humming

Systems and methods in place for smoother second season


Last year, as Skip Holtz and his staff were setting the parameters for each part of their Pirate program, they got used to long hours in meeting rooms. As a young head coach, Holtz hired coaches with plenty of experience and perspective, and he was anxious to hear all of the opinions around the table.

“The first year’s hard anywhere, but you bring 10 people in together and you bring them all in at the same time, it takes forever to do anything,” he said. “Because you’ve got 10 different people saying, ‘I did it this way,’ or, ‘I did it this way.’”

Those hours spent talking through offensive and defensive strategy and details as small as how they wanted their center to snap the ball have paid dividends in a number of ways.

For one thing, the staff has grown so close that the coaches not only operate smoothly as a unit, they actually enjoy spending time together.

Another payoff has to do with those meetings. They talked, listened and analyzed in 2005 so that in 2006 they could go into a meeting, agree to continue the same course they agreed upon last year and then move on to something else.

For an example of how things have progressed, Holtz looked to the big event of this week — the various football camps for youth from ages 8-18.

“In starting camp last year, the meetings to organize it were longer than the camp itself,” Holtz said. “But that’s all done now. The camp meeting this year was 30 minutes. Now, we’ve got more time to spend doing the things we need to be doing, spending time with our players.”

When Holtz came in as head coach, he took great care to assemble a staff of men with a diversity of background and experience, coaches who could build a winning program with their collective expertise.

On paper, it looked like a superlative group. But the real measure of Holtz’s hiring work can only be taken now, as they look into the jaws of their second season with East Carolina.

“It’s even better than I thought it was going to be, because of the way they all gel together and the type of people they are,” he said. “They’re all good coaches, they all have impressive resumes, but what makes them special is the way they work together.”

A good college coaching staff should be a microcosm of the football team itself, Holtz said — offensive and defensive guys interacting for one purpose, without tension or territorialism. Holtz has seen staffs where there was disunity between the coaches on both sides of the ball, and that chasm trickled down to the players.

“It’s a family,” he said. “It’s the way we’re trying to get our players to be.”

Holtz has also been encouraged by the fact that as they have repeated each step of the football calendar, the staff hasn’t come upon anything that required wholesale changes. Through those long idea-sharing sessions, Team Holtz seems to have developed solid procedures that have needed only minor tweaking in the replay.

“I don’t know if there’s any one area right now where I feel we need to make an overhaul,” he said. “In football, every team has a life expectancy of one year, and football is a game of hiding your weaknesses and highlighting your strengths.”

Recruiting is in flux more than any other aspect of the program, Holtz said, but only because the recruiting process becomes more involved as coaches get more years under their belts.

Instead of just reacting to gaps in the roster like they had to do when they first arrived, the ECU coaches who specialize in recruiting are getting the chance to build relationships with younger players.

“We’re really just catching up to where we have a fighting chance of recruiting a guy for two full years,” he said.

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02/23/2007 01:13:08 AM

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