LIVE OAK, Fla. — The learning hasn’t been focused solely on the football field for the Suwannee High Bulldogs.
Rather, since fall practice began last week, coach Kyler Hall has made sure the Bulldogs have had a chance to develop and grow off the field as well.
That off the field training included guest speakers like Adrian Crawford, WalkOn Nation and Kez McCorvey, a former Florida State standout, with more planned for this week and in the future as well.
“We spend so much time on the football part of it, you also have to hit on the development of the young man,” Hall said, adding during the season when the Bulldogs gather for team breakfast, he also has utilized guest speakers from people within the community.
“I love bringing in guys to speak to them…I love that stuff. Because every time someone speaks to you, we challenge them to at least take one thing they talked about.
“It’s just planting seeds and at some point, it’s going to come out where ‘I remember that guy that came and talked to us 10 years ago. Now it makes sense to me.’ We may not see the fruits of it now and the effect of it. But five, 10 years down the road or when they become fathers and husbands, I think it’ll eventually come to pass.”
Michael Willett and Tristan Reeves, the founders of WalkOn Nation and former University of Central Florida walk-ons, spoke to the Suwannee players about their identity, what they want to be and how they plan to get there.
“Having a plan of what you’re doing,” Hall said, describing it as an interactive meeting with the Bulldogs having honest, open conversations with Willett and Reeves.
Hall said he will invite WalkOn Nation, which he met at a workshop this summer while working for HuddleUp — a group formerly known as Mentors in Violence Prevention that he has worked with for close to a decade — back later in the season or in the spring to further discuss integrity and character.
Crawford, a good friend of Hall’s since college, addressed the Bulldogs about their preparation and making sure they are ready when their moment arrives, that the key to producing when the game is on the line comes now, during the grind of preseason practices.
“When the big moment hits, who are you,” Hall said of Crawford’s message. “He came from the point of what you do in the every day, mundane, borderline boring stuff that may not seem exciting, what you are and who you are in those moments is just who are in the big moments. It’s just a reflection of it.
“Just always preparing on a day to day basis so when that time does come, it’s not as big.”
Hall said that message is extremely valuable for his team, one that didn’t seem to perform at its best level in the biggest games a year ago.
“We had just crucial, bad mistakes — both coaching and playing,” Hall said. “So I think that’s one thing this year that we’re going to have to get over that hump. Like in a game like Madison and the district games on our schedule, don’t let the moment be too big. Just make sure that what you’re doing every day, when you get to that moment, you’re ready. It’s not, ‘Oh, we’ve got to get ready now.’
“We’ve already been doing this. You’re ready. Let’s just go play.”