Long before the lights are turned on, the jerseys are put on over the pads and the first game of the season is played, a team has to become a team. Being a team is about trusting one another and having strong bonds that make an entire unit work cohesively.
That doesn't always form on the field.
A few weeks ago, for the third year in a row, Durant football coaches took their players to the Alafia River for a canoe trip that would bring their team closer together — both on and off the field.
"Some of these guys have never gone canoeing, and to expose them to the outdoors was a very positive experience," said head coach Michael Gottman. "It helped them grow together."
After a long, fun day of rope swings, tipped canoes, lost paddles and laughter, the bond between players and coaches could be easily seen on the final leg of the journey back to the dock.
"After the canoe trip, guys are hanging out together more," Gottman said. "Guys you wouldn't think would talk at all are spending time together. They developed bonds and relationships on this trip."
As for how paddling will translate into tackles and complete passes, Gottman knows that experiences like the canoe trip are important.
"I know if we put forward the effort to do things like the canoe trip, it can't hurt. When you have a big graduating class like we did last year, these team-bonding things become important. Ultimately, we have to go out and play good solid football."
Do you have an idea that you would like to see featured in "More Than a Game?" Eve Edelheit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3309.