By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When South Laurel went looking for a new football coach, it wanted someone that would bring excitement back into the program.
The man they chose was Matt Rhymer, and if the off season is any indication, he was the right man for the job.
“This off season has been great,” Rhymer said over the noise of a full weight room. Turnout from preseason conditioning has been encouraging to Rhymer.
“The kids are buying into what we are saying,” Rhymer said. “They are working extremely hard in the weight room.”
When Rhymer took over the position after Larry Welch retired, his first priority was to develop a certain mental toughness into the program. He feels his team is well on its way to doing just that.
“The culture has definitely made significant strides in the direction we want to go to,” Rhymer said.
Rhymer said the numbers so far have been great and he’s thrilled with that because it is a transition into a fresh start. He also feels like there’s still plenty of players walking the halls of South Laurel.
“The kids are here,” Rhymer said. “I’ve talked to as many as I can about coming out for the football team. We’ve got the kids to be successful and to win. I told the kids from the beginning that we want to establish a community and we’ve done that really fast. We need to get the kids out that should be playing football.”
The mix of returning veterans and incoming freshmen can sometimes be a struggle for a team, but Rhymer said so far it has been smooth. He also said he hopes the numbers remain high throughout the summer and into the upcoming season.
“The key to retaining our numbers is winning,” Rhymer said. “Winning will take care of that.”
And winning begins in the off season, especially in the weight room, where Rhymer has been impressed with the improvements his team has made.
“Our strength and conditioning coach, Brian Miniard, has been unbelievable,” Rhymer said. “He has really worked hard. The staff I have put together has really worked hard. We are trying to do things the right way. We have a lot of new faces here in the weight room and we have to get those players to do things nobody thinks we can do. We have to believe in ourselves. This is the hardest working group of kids that I’ve been around. I couldn’t ask them to work any harder than they do.”
Getting his team stronger will be a key to the type of offense he wants to implement at South Laurel.
“We will run,” Rhymer said. “We’re big and strong. We have seen significant strides in the weight room. We’ve had kids set personal records on lifts. Our line needs to be strong to block for our runners.”
Rhymer isn’t so much worried about his team’s physical strength as he is their mental strength.
“Our biggest battle is our mindset, that we are going to win when we step on the field,” Rhymer said. “They understand the direction we are going in. We are learning how to work and push ourselves to the level they have never been to. Effort, attitude, fundamentals and culture. That’s it. Their preparation leads to winning.”