Alpena’s football culture in need of serious change

The Alpena High football program’s revolving door of head coaches needs to be slammed shut.

With the recent resignation of Aaron Sims, Alpena High School is in search of yet another head coach and their next hire will mark the school’s sixth varsity football coach in the last 10 years.

Let me repeat that.

Six head coaches in 10 years!

The number of coaches in such a short amount of time is ridiculous and the lack of stability has hurt a program that has failed to finish with a winning record in the last 14 seasons.

The recent lack of coaching stability is one problem.

With six different coaches since 2009–all of whom came in with different schemes– all of the talented football players that Alpena has produced over the last 10 years have been put in difficult situations with adapting to different coaching styles and new playbooks during their high school careers.

It’s easy to put the blame on the athletes and I’ve heard it time and time again about how athletes need to toughen up and adapt to change.

To a certain extent that may be true, but in the case of Alpena football over the past decade, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to adapt to six coaching changes in 10 years.

The recent resignation of Sims is a sad and ugly situation.

Sims took over the reigns of Alpena’s program in 2016 and came in with the mindset and attitude that he was going to change the culture of Alpena football and its athletes for the better.

Over the last three years, Sims was instrumental in showing Alpena’s football players what it took to become better players and better athletes.

Sims focused on getting not just his football players–but athletes in general–into the weight room to become bigger, faster and stronger. Anyone who understands the importance of building a program and weight training knows that it takes time to see results.

Sims also brought his run-based Wing-T offense to Alpena. Over time, Sims developed his athletes to have success running his time-tested offensive approach. But when results don’t come and there are more losses than wins, issues arise.

Sims knew when he took the job that he needed to change the program’s culture.

Mission accomplished.

What Sims did not understand is changing Alpena’s football culture goes well beyond just changing the mindset and attitudes of the athletes. Other coaches, parents, teachers, administration and fans have to adapt to the changing culture as well.

Sims’ decision to step down was, in part, a family decision, but issues with other coaches, teachers and parents also played a role in his choice.

Having grown up in Alpena and graduating from Alpena High, I can say that sadly, this kind of behavior is normal and tends to happen too often.

Instead of letting a coach do his job, trusting a process and showing support along the way, some adults are more interested and focused on the individual accolades of their own child instead of helping their son or daughter understand how to be a part of a team and something bigger than themselves.

Politics happen everywhere, I understand that. But politicking and other issues have hurt Alpena’s program for many years and issues only seem to fester and get worse.

Sims finished with a 7-20 record during his three-year stint as head coach, but don’t just look at the record. Look at the big picture.

Credit to all of the hard working Alpena athletes, but many have at one point or another been guided by Sims in the weight room and I personally have noticed the change in many athletes over the past three years.

For someone who is an Alpena High School alum and wore the Green and White, I know for a fact that Sims did more for the athletes and dedicated more of his time than any other coach the school has ever had.

This year, five different Alpena teams won Big North Conference titles, two athletes were state champions and more than a dozen athletes are going to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level. A handful of which will be attending Division 1 universities, most notably Logan Guthrie, who spent his final three years of varsity football playing for Sims and is now attending Central Michigan University.

If you’re looking for another example of an athlete benefiting from Sims’ guidance, look no further than Eli Winter.

Winter, who recently became a state champion throwing the discus, is the perfect example of what an athlete can be when he puts in the time and effort to become better.

Winter also plays football and has spent the past three years working with Sims, like many athletes that were a part of successful teams during this 2018-2019 school year did.

Look at the big picture and seriously think about this question.

Are the athletes at Alpena High as successful without the guidance and effort that Sims put in to make Alpena athletics better over the past three years?

I’ll let you decide.

Jason Dubey, Mel Skillman, Brian Tippman, Brad Moughon and Aaron Sims. Five different head coaches and a sixth one to be named soon.

All these coaches have come and gone for different reasons. Some were treated unfair, had promises broken and, in Sims’ case, were forced out because of issues with assistant coaches, teachers within the school, parents and fans.

It’s a shame to see not just a coach, but a person like Sims leave Alpena with a sour taste in his mouth.

Despite failing to meet expectations in year three, Sims left on a winning note as Alpena upset Chelsea in last year’s season finale. The same Chelsea team that has been a football power and made an appearance in a state championship game last season.

Instead of entering the upcoming 2019 football season with Sims after taking a big step forward, Alpena’s football program is without a coach in the middle of June and is once again trending in the wrong direction.

It should be easy to realize how important stability is and what it can lead to. Look around the athletic programs at Alpena. Coaches like Paul Marwede, Chris Limback and John Pintar, to name a few, have more than 50 years of combined coaching experience under their belts at Alpena and each coach has enjoyed success during his tenure.

It’s important for Alpena to find another football coach who will be as dedicated to changing a culture for a program and community that definitely needs a wake up call and reality check when it comes to understanding how important stability within the Alpena football program truly is.


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