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Perry trying to reenergize Patrick County
New coach off to quick start
Kenneth Perry Jr.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
By MARK THOMPSON - Bulletin Sports Writer
Can a coach be accurately evaluated before he even coaches a game? Surely there’s not nearly enough evidence to even begin the conversation.
Don’t be too sure.
When it comes to Patrick County High School, new football coach Kenneth Perry Jr. has already put up some impressive numbers since taking over the program in April.
“I’ve seen a complete attitude change from a lot of the kids,” Perry said. “A lot of kids, from what I’ve heard, never would come and work out over the summer.”
As far as offseason workouts go, Patrick County has seen a rise of more than 300 percent in attendance. Last season under former coach Brad Dalton, the team struggled to get more than six or seven to show to offseason workouts.
Perry had between 20 and 25 this summer. And the Cougars aren’t just showing up.
They don’t want to leave.
“In the years past, we couldn’t listen to music in the weight room. It was really quiet in the weight room, and nobody really had that much fun,” said Brode Corns, a right tackle and defensive lineman on the team. “But now, you can’t wait to get in there. … (Perry is) giving us 110 percent, and it makes you want to give 110 percent too.”
Anyone who knows Perry wouldn’t be surprised by that change.
Perry is no stranger to the Piedmont District. He spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Bassett High School, where he worked primarily with wide receivers and defensive backs. Perry played football professionally with the Lakeland arena football team, and at North Carolina A&T, he also ran track and field in addition to playing football.
Speed and power are paramount in both sports. Perry made it one of his first goals as the new Patrick County coach to stress the importance of that in football.
He is, after all, an athlete first.
“He takes his shirt off or wears a tank top in the weight room, and you could see that he worked out,” Bassett coach Jay Gilbert said. “The kids were motivated by him (at Bassett), and he’s just got that kind of repport about himself as well. He’s a great leader, the kids are going to follow him. Sky is the limit at Patrick County now.”
But there’s more to Perry than muscles.
He’s reenergizing a football program that hasn’t won since the 2009 season. Like an infection, Perry’s philosophies seemingly have spread through Patrick County’s roster and altered everything from the time the team works out to the way it thinks.
Changing the Cougars’ mentality, he says, is the ultimate goal.
“That’s the main thing, is building their confidence. I think a lot of those guys, they get tired of hearing how much they lost the last couple of years, and they just feel it’s inevitable,” Perry said.
“We want to get a win. We also want to improve on every aspect of the game.”
It runs deeper than that, though.
Patrick County wasn’t always winless. Under Dalton, the Cougars won a share of the Piedmont District title in 2008 and finished 5-5 in 2009. Since then, Patrick County is 0-20.
Sure the Cougars want to change that this year. But Perry seems to have already changed the culture, and Patrick County thinks wins will eventually follow.
“It’s more of a mindset to win now,” Corns said. “In the years past, it was never really about winning. It was like guys would just come out just so they could get a jersey. And now, they come out, and they want to work.”
Things are different at Patrick County, and according to Corns, drastically different.
“Last year, you could just feel the hostility in the air,” Corns said. “There would be players that would you’d have problems with, and with nothing working, there’d be arguments in the locker room. We’d be out on the field, and somebody would get mad at somebody and they’d hash out at somebody.
“It’s none of that this year. Everything is taken care of on the field in the pads. You talk with that. It’s none of the bull crap that was had last year.”
Corns called the team a family, and that’s something Perry was able to instill early this offseason.
This season, a new rule allowed teams to hold practices over the summer.
Perry said it gave him time to teach his team the terminology it needed to learn in his system. He believes the Cougars will benefit from it. They certainly grew closer from it.
“All the guys, we’re like a family now, and everybody bonds together,” Corns said. “Everything is working a whole lot smoother and everybody is working on the same page. There’s no controversy amongst each other. It’s like we’re one big family now.”
With Perry at the helm, that family is moving toward a singular goal — a win. At least one, they hope.
To get there, the Cougars are tackling the little things, like getting stronger and faster.
And the little things are what Perry says have him most excited about his head coaching job.
“If you want to be in coaching, this is probably one of the most ideal situations you want to be in, where you can help kids the most,” he said.
Does Perry’s first offseason lend itself to a fair evaluation of the new coach?
But Patrick County would probably rather leave the question hanging. The Cougars seem intent to answer it on the field.
“You can see the desire in their eyes and the fire that we want to win,” Corns said of his teammates. “We want to change the way people look at Patrick County football.”