When the Sealy Tigers faced off against the Bellville Brahmas, a rivalry I had just found out existed and one that has been dominated by the Brahmas this decade, I was joined with another reporter and two photographers on the sideline.
I still remember the play when one of the photographers said something to me and after that I began to notice little pieces of evidence that supported her claim for the rest of the season. After Sealy recovered a fumble, running back Ivan Bolden dropped his shoulder and drove into the end zone through contact to go up 20-0 in the first quarter.
It was an impressive effort, sure, but nothing that struck out to me as extraordinary. That was until one of the photographers looked at me and goes, “These kids are just revived. They haven’t been like this in years.”
I have only been here since August so I don’t know what the team looked like under the previous coach but the photographer was not the first nor the last person to tell me that under Head Coach Shane Mobley, this team just seemed to play differently.
The more they said something along those lines, the more it stuck out to me just how uniquely the team functioned off the field that clearly translated to their play on it. When I first met Mobley mid-August, it was immediately clear that he was a players’ coach.
My editor April Towery was writing a story on athletes and the evolution of how they’re treated by trainers and coaches in terms of hydration and health. Rather than being one of the coaches who pushes players to their physical limits by only allowing limited water breaks, Mobley said when they want it, they can have it.
That may not seem like a big deal but I believe what you’ll find is when coaches allow those type of privileges to players and allow them to express personalities, the players feel more comfortable and play better on the field as a result.
Mobley allows the players to express themselves in a way that allows them to have personalities without being disrespectful. I’ve seen coaches who explicitly tell their players no celebrating after scoring, tell them to speak to the media strictly in clichés and essentially avoid any type of fun extending beyond the field.
These Sealy Tigers are proof that their ability to have a distinct personality while still being respectful has breathed new life into the program. Mobley has told me multiple times that he coaches because he believes the lessons learned on the field extend to greater life lessons that will help them later on.
The Sealy Tigers have the personality to fit that way of coaching and with their first playoff game fast approaching, it seems to be working.
Tad Desai covers sports and education for The Sealy News. He can be reached at 979-885-3562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.