This is the third in a series of stories highlighting each local football program's preparation for the upcoming season. While fall practice won't start for a few more weeks, each team has been preparing for the season in the weight room and on the conditioning field.
As Michael Parker begins his second season in charge of the Clements football program, he is still trying to cement a winning culture at a program that is still looking for its first winning record in 10 years.
Parker's first season resulted in the Colts' first playoff appearance since the 2009 season, but it ended quickly with a 41-0 loss to Piedmont in the first round, which put Clements' final record at 4-7.
Parker believes the program can do much more.
“The main thing is basically, we have to change the culture,” Parker said. “That is what we've been focused on for a year now. I think we're turning the corner here. We have kids who compete now, cheer for each other, are behind each other and are good teammates. The culture is beginning to change, and with that comes pride and integrity.”
Parker said he has tried to bring a change of mindset and have the players take more pride in their school. That comes with small things, such as the apparel the players wear to workouts.
“When I first got here, we'd come to workouts and some kids would have Athens gear on working out in the Clements weight room,” Parker said. “Or gear from other schools in or out of the county. That just comes from the culture that was here, and that really bothered me. Now, when they come into the weight room, they've got on maroon or white.”
It may seem like a little thing, but Parker said it can make a big difference.
When you invest in something, you take pride in it,” he said. “I told the kids the other day, if I bought stock in Walmart, I was going to shop at Walmart. They have invested a year into the program now, and I can see the difference.”
One of the differences is the good offseason workouts the team has put in, Parker said.
“The kids have really bought in and gotten stronger and faster,” he said. “We had great participation. I would say 80% to 85% of the kids showed up on a daily basis. I'm really impressed with the kids who have bought into the program.”
Clements might have even been a little ahead of schedule, as the Colts qualified for the Class 3A playoffs by defeating Lexington 30-7 in the final region game of the season.
Parker hopes that taste of success helps the players realize the hard work and dedication is paying off.
“Things are really coming around,” Parker said. “We're looking forward to the season, and maybe we can host a playoff game next time.”