From the bottom to the Top- 8u Gresham Park wins Championship: Coach Hardnett addresses problems wit
November 21, 2011By Kristopher Gordon of D1Spects Nation
Atlanta, GA-- If the saying “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” has any meaning at all. Then let the 8u Gresham Park Rattlers be the example to lead by. The Rattlers fell off the map early in the season with two untimely losses to the Decatur Army, and Georgia Thoroughbreds. However Gresham Park Coach’s Traven Hardnett and Coach “KK”, have their different opinions.
Coach KK told D1Spects, “The reason for the slow start, is because we added about ten new players to the team from last year. We weren’t on the same page, and we were still learning our newly imputed schemes.”
While Coach Hardnett responded, “I don’t think it was a slow start for us. We were in the right position to win. We just made crucial mistakes, at the wrong time of the game. It was more mistakes on our part, then a slow start.”
He later stated, “Both games could have gone either way. Just the opposing teams made one big play that decided both ball games.” KK also added, “Our early losses made us better coaches and players, as the season progressed.”
Usually, when a team is faces adversity sometimes the fans and parents are the first ones to lose the vision. However, Gresham Park stood tall as a family and figured it out. KK told D1Spects, “We have good parents on our side. At Gresham we are a family. With a tight-knitted family you don’t have ups and downs. Our parents were with us through the good and the bad.
With the fans and parents 100% behind the team, players rose to the challenge, while coaches adjusted their schemes. Hardnett adds, “As the season progressed, our players started to develop, and understood their blocking assignments, and running lanes opened.”
Also the Rattlers got behind the legs of Alvin Williams as Hardnett explains, “Williams, was a first year player with a lot of potential. He was still coming into his own, and still developing. He just needed to learn more about the game. After the loss to the [Georgia] Thoroughbreds, the coaching staff knew we needed to start developing him, and he was a key factor in our season.”
Along with Williams developing, vocal leaders like RB Javarious Sims, and DeMarius Jackson challenged the Rattlers to be better. Hardnett stated, “Sims and Jackson both lead by example in practice as well as in games. Their energy allowed the other kids to pick up their intensity.”
And then it was the coaches turn. KK simply told D1Spects, “We are all about schemes at Gresham Park. We just don't teach “hut” one, “hut” two, go on three football. We make sure our kids understand the importance of our schemes and game-plans every game."
KK later added, “Our season started turning around after participating in Sunday games with D1Spects. (D1Spects Sunday Youth Football) Also a controlled scrimmage with CD (white), which are one of the most physical 8u teams in Atlanta helped us give us a boost this year.”
With a new attitude, Gresham Park rocked the youth football world, finishing the season 12-2 (8-2 regular season), while winning their first ever Georgia Extreme Youth League Championship in a 6-0 defeat over the Georgia Thoroughbreds. This championship gives the coaching staff nine championships total to add to their resume.
KK told D1Spects, “We have commandments that we live by. This particular game we told the boys this could be their last game. “ He also stated, “We preached the importance of cherishing these games. Find an way to win, no excuses, and to limit our mistakes.”
While Hardnett told D1Spects, “We told them [Gresham Park] to believe in their selves, teammates, and coaches. Stick with the game plan, If the game is tight we will coach them through it. We were well prepared for this game, and just have to execute the game plan. When two good teams are playing. It always come down to who is in better shape, more disciplined, who executes better and limits their mistakes.”
KK also added, “We believe in the five “P’s. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
The 8u Gresham Park coaches are proud of their ball club. Hardnett stated, “Yes, I am real proud of them. They stood up to the challenge this year. We felt good about what we had from day one, and the Gresham Park coaches have the experience and knowledge to develop players.”
KK acknowledges the expectation level stating, “Our boys did a real good job and learned a lot. As a coaching staff we coach hard and tough with a lot of schemes. And the players stood the test.”
Gresham Park made more than enough noise this season, with their championship run. This season the Rattlers earned a spot in the Born to Compete Championship Series, however Coach KK has a different look at the invite. He told D1Spects, “We are invited to the Born to Compete Championship series, and that’s a good thing. But we weren’t respected as a team by Born to Compete. A lot of teams that were ranked higher than us, didn’t even make it as far as we did or lost last weekend. Nobody paid attention to us until D1Spects Youth Sunday Football. We knew what we were, but now and days people are into rankings. Born to Compete took us as nobodies, and we fed on that. The coaches fed on that, and the players fed on that. At the end of the day we are the champions.
Coach Hardnett acknowledges the invite stating, “First, I would again like to mention a big thanks to D1Spects. They gave us an outlet to reach other teams, to display and develop our talent. We look to continue to play with the rest of the top teams around Atlanta, and we want to see where we are right now as a team.”
He addressed both publications in terms of rankings stating, “I would like to address how the teams are ranked in both rankings. Born to compete and D1Spects need to be able to send more reps out to view more teams. We feel like we didn’t get justifications as far as the rankings go.”
As far as reaching back to prominence of the early Gresham Park years Hardnett stated, “Gresham has been successful every year with no drop off in talent or coaches. No matter what league or conference Gresham has been a part of, we are always in the top among the best.”
After it’s all said and done, Gresham is among the top 8u teams in the state. Coach KK ends the interview with a question to the 8u Georgia Thoroughbreds’ Coach Paul Tennell. Earlier in the season, Tennell stated that the Thoroughbreds beat the Rattlers without their star quarterback and running back.
Coach KK simply told D1Spects, “Yesterday your whole team was there. Now what is your excuse?”