When Joe Wieland coached the Whitefish Bay High School football team, his team one season featured a senior linebacker who was 5’ 6” and weighed all of 140 pounds. (Hint: Some boys on this season’s 7th grade Junior Blue Dukes squad are bigger than that.)
“He lifted weights and became a second-team all-conference linebacker, because he thought he was a tough-guy football player,” Wieland said.
“Every year at high school I had one kid who never started until he became a senior. Those are my success stories. I made a difference with those kids.”
Wieland, who has 22 years of coaching football at every level from 3rd grade through college graduate assistant, is coaching the Junior Blue Dukes 7th grade Blue team this year. He coached the 6th grade squad last season.
He was an all-conference football (RB/DB), baseball (outfielder) and track (sprinter) athlete at Kettle Moraine High School, and an all-conference free safety and track letterman at Carroll College. Wieland coached the WFBHS team for 5 years, compiling 8-3 records his last two seasons.
“I’ve never been the biggest guy on the field,” said Wieland, a math teacher at Whitefish Bay Middle School. “I felt like I worked as hard as I could. I was a tough guy, I played hard.
“I was a kid who could not stand to lose. I hated to lose. I was really fast, I took advantage of my strengths.”
Last season, with a bounty of skilled players to call on, Wieland’s 6th grade team went undefeated. To get more boys more playing experience, the 7th grade is fielding two teams this season, with acknowledged skill players divided comparably between the two teams.
“I feel much more challenged as a coach, day to day in practice,” he said. “I have to make the players better every single day.
“One of our goals is to make our coaches coach better.”
He said he was “ecstatic” with the number of 7th grade boys (about 46) who came out for football this season. “We picked up some football players. Some will have an immediate impact, some an impact two years from now.”
While some players are obviously bigger, faster or stronger than others, Wieland does not believe on giving up on any kid who is making the effort. “Kids will ask me and I will tell them candidly, here’s what you need to do (to improve or to earn a starting spot),” he said. He also said every kid on the team, no matter who he is, has parts of his game he can improve.
Wieland, Grey team coach Jon Bassindale and the assistant coaches are committed to maintaining a unified spirit among 7th grade players while fielding two teams. The two head coaches frequently compare notes on their squads. About 75% of the offensive playbook is the same for both teams, with each team putting in a few plays of its own to take advantage of its players’ distinctive skills.
“We end every practice as a team,” Wieland said. “We are one big team that is going our opposite ways on Saturday and coming back to talk about our victories."
Both 7th grade teams begin play Sept. 11 at Lubar Stadium in Whitefish Bay. The Grey team plays at 10:30 p.m., the Blue team kicks off at 3 p.m.
For team info and highlights, visit http://jbd5.blogspot.com.
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