By Rachel Kearney
Football is a team sport.
That may seem like an obvious statement, but Coach Brian Fish is trying to make Olivet football more about teamwork in his first year as head coach.
“In order to be successful you need to know and care for each other,” Fish said.
While the team just won its first game since 2009 improving to 1-2, Fish, who was a part of the Olivet team that was the 1998 NAIA runner up, and his players know success does not come overnight.
“We try not to get too caught up in anticipating outcomes,” Fish said. “We’re focusing on how we play every play. Right now we’re trying to set a foundation.”
Fish knows that he has a lot of work to do, especially considering the team’s 2-20 record over Don Lee’s two seasons as head coach, but the trouble was not just on the field. Junior defensive lineman Tony Turner said that he knew maybe half of the over 120-member team during that time.
After Fish was hired last winter, following Lee’s resignation in November, he met with the team right away to make sure they knew what he was about.
“I like his energy and the way he’s trying to build the team,” now-junior offensive lineman Erik Otte told the GlimmerGlass last February.
That energy and focus has carried over the past seven months. Fish said, in addition to physical training, he has been implementing team activities. Last spring the whole team went bowling. During team camp in August, Fish continued to look for ways to bring the team together, from “goofy” relays to late night snacks, even to sending the team to a water park after practice one day.
“Football needs to be fun and serious,” Fish said. “There needs to be hang out time.”
Turner said that through all of the activities he has come to know well more than half the team.
“Now I could talk to just about everyone on the team,” he said. “There’s a lot more energy on the sidelines. It’s a lot easier to cheer for someone when you know them.”
Fish echoed that idea.
“The guys [who are off the field] play through someone [who is on it],” he said. “There’s only 11 on the field, but the other 90 should be just as invested as the 11.”
While Fish is focused on team unity and making football more fun he still knows success requires a lot of hard work and strategy.
One change Fish is bringing to the offense is using the run to set up the pass instead of relying on the passing game as the team did in the past.
“We’re trying to control the clock more this year,” Turner said. “Which is good because in the past two years the defense played a lot. Now we’re more rested.”
But through all the strategizing, ultimately Fish just wants his team to play to their potential.
“Our goal is to compete regardless and to give our maximum effort on every down,” he said. “I’m trying to get [Olivet football] back to the level where I played. I’d love for these guys to have the experience [winning and playing for an NAIA championship] I had.”
So far, both Fish and Turner said they are pleased with the team’s progression.
“They’ve been great,” Fish said. “I’m pleased with how they’ve received the ideas I’ve presented. We just need to fully understand them and work everyday.”
Turner agreed, and added that he is excited about what Fish is trying to do with the team.
“I know this is cliché, but I honestly think we’re getting better everyday,” he said. “You can really tell [Coach Fish] is trying to do things the right way.”