By: Shawn O’Brate
RIVERTON – While many teams across the state, and the country, begin preparing for Fall football and the glory that is Friday night lights the Riverton Wolverines’ football team is joining in the fun and bringing the youth of Riverton to test their strength and learn from current Wolverines.
Like many training camps and mini-camps across the USA, the high school football players that have been through the process of pre-season preparation are doing everything they can to get ready for the hits, the celebrations, the fans in the stands, and all the glory that can come from the gridiron game.
But, one thing that doesn’t get worked out as often in these pre-season camps is the most important muscle of all: the brain.
That’s why, after and before their own practices and workouts, the Wolverines’ players participate in training the younger generation of football players in town on the basics, the playbooks, the calls at the line, and so much more that go into a single play between the hash marks on the field.
With children from fifth grade all the way to incoming freshman, the Wolverines’ got a look at what their teams could be filled with in the future all while expanding their mental knowledge of the game by having current players coach different scrimmages from the 20-yard line–a common game played at many sports camps, but nonetheless very fun and enjoyable for everybody involved.
There were many standouts amongst the young children, one of which took a reverse hand off to the house around a flurry of defenders which caused a loud, cheerful ruckus from the Wolverine players that were acting as their coaches.
That first hour where the Wolverine players coach the youngsters of the future act as more than just a fun time to teach kids the sport of football, it’s also to help them from the coaches’ perspectives.
“It teaches them a little feedback loop,” head coach Troy Anderson said, “the camp is driven by the older kids.”
After the younger kids leave the field then it is time for the big boys to come out and practice, hitting the bags and making practice feel as close to a real game as they can.
“We’re looking for indicators and engagement,” coach Anderson said, “You never know how things are going to work out, you just do the actions and see what happens. That’s life and, to a large extent, that’s sports.”
The whole practice had a fun vibe, a solid energy that allowed the returning and incoming Wolverine players to have a little fun while they learn the playbook and show off their multiple positional skills–something that coach Anderson encourages.
“On some level I just want to see dudes show up and work,” Anderson said, “we don’t want guys getting pigeon-holed into one position, because we may need them at another when the time comes.”
But with the multiple positions, the sting of last season’s 1-8 record, and less engagement than coach Anderson might hope for, where do the leaders step up? And when does the rest of the team acknowledge their leadership?
After a leadership council that coach Anderson put together for the Wolverines this past Spring it’s pretty clear that he is letting the team, specifically the older and more experienced players, decide the leaders of the team.
“Leadership is an opportunity for these kids,” Anderson explained, “they self-regulate and I expect some younger kids, even sophomores, to take on some of those leadership roles throughout the season.”
So with all this on the table for the upcoming season, just where does coach Anderson and the rest of the team reside on where 2022-23 will place them when it’s all said and done?
“We have a lot of goals for this season,” Anderson said, “Obviously you want to beat your rival, you want to do well in your conference, but really we want to be in the talk of the 3A East because it’s been dominated for 10 to 15 years it seems like. We want to be competitive, and hopefully beat some of those teams that have been dominating.”
That rivalry game with Lander has been the talk of both Lander and Riverton’s practice, with the matchup set for September 30th this year at Lander Valley High School.
“Dudes want to win it, plain and simple,” Anderson explained, “the crowds are so significant in those games, especially back in the day when both teams were super successful.”
“Rivalries are healthy,” Lander head coach John Scott said after his team’s practice Wednesday, “The Riverton–Lander one brings out the ugly in some people.”
That ‘ugly’ will be on full display at the end of September, but until then the practices and the camps are what both coaches have their full attention towards and until the first week of the Fall season (August 26th) what they see on the field will be their only marker for how the season will end for their respective teams.