What Offseason? Pt. 3: Broad Run Football
The Spartans' offseason focused on developing leaders and community service to bring the team together.
The Broad Run Spartans football team relied on a senior-laden roster last season to make a successful jump from AA to AAA competition. Led by district Players of the Year Connor Jessop at quarterback and linebacker Caleb Lindsay, the Spartans captured a share of their first ever Cedar Run district championship and a trip to the AAA playoffs.
But the realities of high school football hit the Spartans hard last spring when Jessop, Lindsay and a host of other talented seniors graduated. Gone are the likes of all-district workhorse running back Derril Thomas, behemoth offensive linemen Jackson Matteo and Brenden Vechery, and versatile players such as Michael Stratton, Avery Campbell and Danny Gallagher.
The loss of so many seniors left the team with a bit of a void heading into this season, so in addition to the standard weightlifting and conditioning programs, the Broad Run coaching staff used the offseason to groom the next crop of Spartan leaders.
"We lost so many seniors last year, so we had to come up with some unique ways to find and develop leaders early on for this season," said head coach Matt Griffis.
Luckily, the Spartans had a resident leadership expert on staff for Griffis to lean on: assistant coach Ed Abner, a Naval Academy graduate, member of the Midshipmen Sports Hall of Fame and leadership consultant who helped develop a leadership training program for interested players last spring.
Abner’s multi-week program included assignments from a leadership course book and was designed to prepare the athletes to serve as leaders both on the team and in the community.
Players who completed the course were given the opportunity to apply their leadership skills as "squadron leaders." Squads received awarded points for various offseason team-building and community service activities.
"We had about ten squadrons, and tried to form them with players who might not always hang out together,” Griffis said. “We wanted them to focus on doing things together that weren't football related."
Squadrons gained points for attendance at weightlifting, participation in non-football related activities such as a dodge ball tournament, and community service projects, including work with the Good Shepherd Alliance and assisting an elderly Ashburn resident with yard care. The top four teams points received a reprieve from cleaning up the practice fields, lugging equipment back to the storage rooms and other team chores.
"We tried to come up with some unique ways for the team to come together outside of football and to teach the players leadership skills," Griffis said, adding that Abner “is a real resource for me and the team."
But it wasn't just the Spartan players and coaches that focused on building camaraderie and giving back to the community this offseason. For the second year in a row, the Spartans held a fundraising event for Ryan Diviney at the team's spring "Maroon and Gold" game. Last year's event raised more than $10,000 for the Diviney family. Several local businesses sponsored this year's event, including Finnegan's of Leesburg, Ford's Fish Shack and 1757 Golf Club (see complete list below).
"I had no idea that high school sports would be this much fun," said Alicia Yancy, one of several "team mom" volunteers who helped with the Diviney fundraising event. "The whole group of people, the families come together, it's a great sense of community."
While it's yet to be seen whether the Spartans focus on leadership development will pay dividends on the field this season, the early returns have been noticeable to the parents of some players.
"He's changed my son's life. He really has, all for the better," said Jennifer Murray, "I think everybody should join the football team just for what they offer the boys, not just for the football, but for the life skills."
- Finnegan’s of Leesburg
- Harris Teeter
- Bonefish Grill
- Buffalo Wing Factory
- Cartridge World
- Cobb Village Theatre
- Charming Charlie’s
- Design Thyme II Interior Design
- Doggone Natural
- Ford's Fish Shack
- Frozen Fantasy
- Great Harvest Bread Co.
- King Pinz
- Maggie Moo’s
- Manhattan Pizzeria
- Mike Stevens/Shenandoah Weekend
- Modern Concepts
- Parallel Wine Bistro
- Potomac Family Sports & Chiropractic
- Poulin Chiropractic
- Premier Powerwash Paint & Restoration
- Uniquely Yours by Tracy Mozingo
- Whitestone Home Improvement
- Williams Martial Arts
- 1757 Golf Club