GLENELG HIGH SCHOOL
BFS is bringing back to sports the qualities of camaraderie, sportsmanship and scholastic achievement that our nation needs now more than ever.
By Laura Dayton
Published: Spring 2001
There was a time when school sports programs were intended to build character, teach kids to work as a team and encourage them to have respect for their coaches and each other. Sports helped build strong bodies and sound minds. Today, those notions are nearly forgotten in big city schools, and fading at smaller educational facilities.
Get ready for a change: Bigger Faster Stronger, always a leader in sports education, has a new program that’s putting character-building back in gyms and weight rooms across the country. The BFS team won’t settle for being just a ten; they want to show our nation’s youth how to be elevens. Their astonishingly popular Be An 11 Program is catching on like a wild grassfire on a windy day.
The Be An 11 Guidebook is filled with inspiration. Some are in the form of original quotes like, “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” Some are captivating stories of famous athletes who have overcome adversity, as well as tales of regular people who have gone that extra mile. Sometimes the book borrows from fellow believers that sports programs should instill positive, assertive and humanitarian characteristics. One example comes from a sign posted in the University of Missouri weight room that reads:
“If you don’t feel like working hard in the weight room and school, if you don’t feel like putting your all into winning, memorize the following six words: Do you want fries with that?”
Walking the Walk
Lots of people preach about developing good character, positive thinking and striving to always better your position (and that of others) in life, but few people teach it in a step-by-step process. BFS President, Greg Shepard, is not one who just talks the talk; he walks the walk. Last year when Glenelg High School head football coach John Davis called Shepard to reserve a date for a Be An 11 Seminar, the two coaches had no idea of the emotional impact that seminar would take on.
Davis’ decision was the result of his evolving career choices. After his high school and collegiate years in football and his first year coaching at James Madison University in Virginia, where he received his MS, he began hearing about BFS. He began to receive the BFS Journals as his career leapfrogged to North University in Maryland, then Florida and finally to Maryland as a high school coach in the small, close-knit community of Glenelg. There, he began to put some of the BFS principles into place and also supply his weight room with BFS equipment.
Coach Davis had read about the Be An 11 Program and initially decided to buy the manuals and put the program in motion on his own. A parent meeting was scheduled around his plans. Then tragedy hit the school and community during the first week of practice: Their all-county, wide receiver of the year, J.T. Smart, 17, died in a car accident in which drinking was involved. Shortly thereafter, when Davis’ meeting with team parents convened, there was a profound interest in doing something about the problems of teenage alcohol and drug abuse in their community.
While Coach Davis elaborated on his plan to hold the workshop on his own, one concerned parent after another asked, “Why not hire the guy who started it? Let’s bring in Greg Shepard.” The problem came down to money, but then one parent offered to pay half the costs if the balance could be provided through fund-raising. The call to Shepard went in the next day.
“The first game of the season we won purely out of emotion for J.T.,” recalls Davis. “Then we lost the next two games. Our reservation for the Be An 11 Seminar was still a month away. I thought, ‘How can I wait a month?’ Then we had another devastating loss to a team we should have beat, making three losses in a row. That was our ultimate low point. The kids were griping and saying they wanted to quit. That’s when we lit into them hard. We said, ‘You have to make a commitment to each other, for each other, or get out.’ The kids responded and we won three straight.”
Shepard called to confirm the date, and when he heard Davis’ turn-around story he teased, “Well, do you still need me?” Davis replied, “Yes,” without hesitation. He knew there were still problems in his community with kids drinking and doing drugs.
A Magic Moment
When Coach Shepard arrived in Glenelg, the tragedy of J.T. was still on the minds of the parents, students and faculty. As it turned out, the date coincided with the funeral for one of Shepard’s former players, an All-State running back, from his own hands-on coaching days. He had died in an accidental gas leak in a camper while hunting with his son, a ninth grader who was already turning heads as a football star.
Shepard missed the services to make his appointment at Glenelg High.
His story resonated in unison with Glenelg’s ongoing grief over J.T. and there were tears of sadness, reconciliation and joy shared during the workshop.
Perhaps it was just a chance meeting of minds and emotions. Or perhaps it was destiny that the Be An 11 Program really hit its mark. Which one, no one can answer.
Parents, JV and varsity players, counselors, coaches and faculty were invited to attend. And they did. The support and enthusiasm was at an all-time high.
“From that point on everything we did was directed around being an eleven,” recalls Davis. “We had signs in the locker room. It was just about the only talk in the weight room and the playing field. We were set on fire to be elevens!”
If you want proof, check out what Glenelg’s Gladiators accomplished following the workshop. For starters, they won the next four games making it seven games straight and qualified for the playoffs. In Glenelg’s history, only three other years’ teams ever qualified.
“Toward the end, we beat three teams in games that no one thought we had a snowball’s chance in summer to win,” recalls Davis, his voice excited with pride. “First there was Wilde Lake, then Long Reach High School. In the first round of the playoffs we played a team we had previously lost to by 22 points, Oakland Mills. This time around we beat them 14-7. We had not beaten them in nine years!” All of these school’s were 3-A powerhouses, where Glenelg is in the smaller 1-A classification. Further more, the upset victory over Oakland was the first post-season win in school history. What a feat!
Coach Davis continues, “Our JV team, coached by Jeremy Snyder, was equally motivated by the program and went undefeated this year: 10-0, and 18 and 4 as a program overall. It’s the best it has ever been!”
from the Sky
Not only were the spirits of the Glenelg Gladiators ignited from the workshop and the lessons learned from the tragic death of their teammate J.T., the team also received inspiration from above--it came in the form of an airplane
carrying a banner reading, “Go Gladiators. Go Elevens!”
That amazing moment came from the same parent who had volunteered to put up half the money for the seminar, the father of player Joe McDonald, who, as a graduating senior is now awaiting his appointment at West Point, along with fellow teammate, Kyle Johnston.
“The banner was pure inspiration,” says Davis. “We were in the end zone ready to start the game when it flew overhead. What a moment for the team!”
The plane and banner showed up again for the next game, just in time to turn the score in the Gladiators’ favor, and again for the first game of the playoffs, which unfortunately, the Gladiators didn’t win. Against their nemesis Forestville, the defending champs, Glenelg lost 20 points to 7. But they had made it to the playoffs, and that effort was pure eleven!
Where from Here?
As a fitting end to the season, Coach Davis was named the county’s Coach of the Year. However, a humbled Coach Davis already has his sights focussed on the new season. “This year we’re not losin