In hosting yearly High School Coaches Clinics from August of 2015 to 2017, the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation has afforded coaches from the Washington D.C. region the opportunity to learn from those teaching at the highest level of football. Coaches filled their notebooks with schematic insights and player development techniques before returning to their respective programs to implement these lessons in the weeks leading up to the regular season.
Educating local high school coaches remained a main focus of this year’s clinic—which Inova Sports Medicine presented at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park on Wednesday—but players were also the beneficiaries of this annual experience. Select student athletes joined about 50 coaches at the NFL facility this time around, sitting in on discussions about concussion protocol and character building. Then the players migrated to the Redskins bubble to test their physical abilities against local peers.
“This was a big opportunity to see what I have been dreaming of and how I can help set up myself to achieve my dreams of going to the [NFL],” said Tristan Leigh, a sophomore offensive tackle from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax. “It was just a great opportunity, and I’m very grateful I could see those big-name coaches and just see what they can bring to the table.”
It served as a sobering but necessary discussion that preceded an inspiring address from keynote speaker Joe Ehrmann, a NFL Alumnus and Co-Founder of the InsideOut Initiative, which focuses on “the purpose, power, possibility, and privilege of leading and coaching,” according to its website. His passionate discourse touched on topics such as masculinity, empathy and communication, and he urged coaches and athletes alike to consciously practice and preach these methods in their programs.
At that point the athletes exited the auditorium for an early lunch, while the coaches stuck around as Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams and Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan introduced the panel of three Redskins assistant coaches: Senior Offensive Assistant Matt Cavanaugh, Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky and Special Teams Coordinator Nate Kaczor. They proceeded to answer a broad range of questions, hitting on subjects like their paths into professional coaching, identifying leadership and assisting head coach Jay Gruden.
After a brief lunch, coaches split into smaller groups for more intimate conversations with their respective coordinators.
“Really nice to be able to send the elevator back down to some high school coaches,” said Thomas Neville, who coaches at Lafayette High School in Williamsburg. “I enjoyed the aspect of the player-coach relationship being a lot of the focus—connecting with players and all that—but then to get some film time in with the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins and really talk some schematics and things like that, that was absolutely fantastic.”
With the coaches busy talking Xs and Os, the players moved over to the Redskins Bubble for a free high school combine run by EXOS performance staff. Once split into position groups, the players participated in various drills like the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run and received valuable instruction from EXOS along the way.
“It’s great to get one of my young men out here to see the facility,” said Minoso Rodgers, who is the head coach at Ballou High School in Southwest D.C. “Hopefully that will allow him to go back and talk to his teammates and our other young men that it’s exciting at the next level and it’s way bigger than high school, so keep pushing and striving for the best.”
Participants in the clinic went home with some commemorative items, too, as everyone received a Redskins notebook, coaches were given hats and books and players got water bottles. The Redskins equipment staff also donated almost 150 pairs of cleats for coaches to disperse among their student athletes.
“It’s nice to know at all levels—whether it’s youth league, high school, college, professional—that that relationship and that connection piece with players is what it’s all about,” Neville said. “This game truly is about helping shape young men in our society that are going to be productive individuals no matter what they do, whether it’s football or not, and having professional coaches saying that same thing validates what I do—for free.”