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Since 1992 the New Albany Eagles had accumulated a dismal record of 7-63. In 1998 they went 1-9, and then decided to have a BFS Clinic. In 1999 they went 9-1; their best record since 1966.
By Kim Goss
Published: Spring 2000

Jack Hatem had a lot of work to do when he accepted the job as head football coach at Ohio's New Albany High School in 1998. He had to get used to working with the administration and coaching staff and learn the strengths, weaknesses and personalities of each member of his new football team. Hatem's task was made considerably more difficult because he had inherited a team that had won only six games in the past six years.
“The kids who were playing football here were ridiculed,” says Hatem, “Absolutely the worst thing you could do if you were a kid at New Albany was to play football. The attitude of the student body and the community was that nobody thought you could win, and there were all kinds of excuses. What we wanted to do first was create a situation where kids wanted to be here and wanted to be involved in football.”
It's this same positive approach to coaching that enabled Hatem to turn around other broken high school football programs. Prior to New Albany, he took over a football program that had suffered a 19-game losing streak and brought them out of the cellar to a 6-4 record. Before that, he brought a team that had won only 11 games in six years to a perfect 10-0 record in his second season. Hatem's resolve would be tested, however, as his first season at New Albany ended with a 1-9 record. Tested, but not broken, as there were many positives that came out of that experience.
“At the end of the first season our junior varsity team finished with three straight wins, so there was a belief among some of those younger players that they could actually win,” recalls Hatem. “There were some close games in that 1-9 season, so there was reason enough for our varsity players to believe that we could come back and win. And most importantly, the varsity kids wanted desperately to earn the respect of their opponents, the people in the community, and more than anything the respect of the student body.”
Having established the positive attitude needed to win, Hatem took the next step: he called Bigger Faster Stronger.

The BFS Spark

“When I took the job at New Albany I had to make some real honest evaluations about what the program needed to win,” says Hatem. “Obviously, one of those was the weight training program. Right away I called Rick Bojak of BFS. He had done a clinic for me before. He came to New Albany and did a Bigger Faster Stronger clinic for us, and after that our kids absolutely took off in the weightroom. The progress, just like all the other stories you've heard about, was absolutely amazing-for each individual kid, how much strength they gained, how much faster they got, how much bigger they became. We didn't even look like the same team after a year of training!”
Hatem instituted many motivational techniques for his New Albany Eagles, such as giving away T-shirts, attending a Colts game and having a practice in the RCA dome, and a 7-day summer camp. “We just tried to come up with every positive we could to get to the point where the kids were having fun and enjoying being a part of what we were doing. From there we came up with ways to make them believe we could actually win.”
Hatem believes that one of his biggest motivations was setting up a specific number of hours that the team needed to spend in the weightroom for them to be successful on the gridiron. “I kept telling them throughout the off-season, we don't have to wait until our first game--we'll know by August 1st how good we're going to be.”
As for the nuts and bolts of his on-field strategy, Hatem likes to runs an “I” offense and a 4-3 defense--but joked that he doesn't “do anything that you'll want to write a book about.” Says Hatem, “You can have a basic offense and defense, but it definitely has to be molded around the talent you have at the time. Going into the next season thinking that we would run the same offense and defense that we ran this year would be ridiculous. You have to know your kids and adjust your strategy to what those kids do best.
“There was one more element in Hatem's formula for success, and that was instilling the idea of “ownership” among his athletes. “These kids needed to take ownership of the football program. We preach to them, This is your program, and when you do take ownership of it, you will get better.”
And get better they did, as the following year the Eagles shocked everyone except themselves by winning nine of their scheduled ten games.

Pure Energy

Hatem says that another reason he wanted to implement the BFS program at New Albany was to develop a sense of unity among all athletes. “I really believe in getting all the coaches and athletes on the same page. I just really loved the BFS philosophy of challenging why we should have a kid learn five different flexibility programs and five different strength training programs?” I thought the BFS program was solid and adaptable, and we could use it for everyone.”
Justin Sanford is a full-time athletic trainer at New Albany, and he plays a key role in the conditioning program for all sports. “What we found with this BFS program is these lifts are not just lifts that will benefit a football player or a basketball player; these are total body lifts. Every lift that's on the program is really a core component in an approach that works multiple body parts whenever the students lift.
“In addition to the changes in the football program, Sanford saw a major difference in the girls program. “At first the female attendance was down, and we really didn't know if they were intimidated by the workout, or just weren't used to being in the weightroom,” says Stanford. That quickly changed, and the girls became as much as part of the weightroom intensity as the guys. “They are one and the same. The girls motivate the guys, the guys motivate the girls, helping each other out, even screaming for each other-it's pure energy!”

Ending on a Positive Note

When asked if he treats his current athletes differently than those he coached in his early years, Hatem replied, “Today's athletes are asking more questions, and it's only fair that a coach should be able to answer those questions. Fifteen years ago if a coach told you do to something, there were no questions asked. Today's kid is a little more questioning, and they want to know why. They also want a little more ownership and independence, and they want to feel they have some input and are part of what's going on. Those are the major differences.”
As a final word of advice for football coaches, Hatem says it's important for them to involve the parents, and for this reason during the season meets with them every Wednesday to discuss previous games, upcoming games and answer any questions. “I want their input. My advise to them is, your son gets to play high school football for four years. Please, be a part of that!”

Eagles Win!

Nick Sicilian, who never missed a weightroom workout, shows great starting form on the Power Clean.
Rob Talpas spots Joe Wilson on a Glute Ham type exercise. This stretches the glutes and hamstrings from origin to insertion.
Rob Talpas doing the Box Squat with 455 pounds while Gaines Moore spots. Rob is using the Manta Ray instead of a pad.
Mike Daniels is doing the Hex Bar Deadlift with the old style Trap Bar. This is a quick, safe, alternative to the standard Deadlift.
Adam Leeman (#5) received All-Ohio honors as a Junior and is looking forward to a great senior year as an Eagle.
Scott Sindel shows why he was chosen as All Ohio, as he stretches to catch a ball in one of many victories.
Nick Sicilian never missed a day in the weightroom. His hard work resulted in All Ohio honors.
Eagle Head Football Coach Jack Hatem was hired in 1998 and finished with only one win. He knew he had to do something, he called BFS and scheduled a Clinic. One year later Jack lead his team to a 9-1 record and a share of the Mid-State League Championship.
Rob Talpas, All Ohio, also a baseball prospect would arrive at school at 6:00 am to get in his workouts.
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