Some say age is nothing but a number. For Western Reserve High football coach Andy Hake, he may be young, but when it comes to coaching, he’s a seasoned veteran.
The first-year head coach took over the program at age 29 after stints as an assistant at Mineral Ridge and East.
Those positions gave him plenty of opportunities to get his feet wet in the profession. Being entrusted with so much responsibility helped prepare him for leading the Western Reserve program this season.
“I started coaching at age 19 and I was calling plays at age 21,” said Hake, who is 9-1 in his first year as head coach. “I was blessed with the opportunity at a young age to be able to do this. While calling plays at Ridge, we were 25-5 and at East we were like 20-10.
“I worked with some very good coaches, and we had a lot of talented kids. I think we could have won more games, but that’s just how I am. I always think we can win every game. I think I relate well with our guys and they have responded to my coaching.”
Q. How has the transition from assistant coach to head coach been?
A. I think it has gone great. The kids have done everything I’ve asked of them from Day 1. What has really helped is having some seniors that can help the younger guys. These kids wanted to win and wanted to win the league. But we lost to McDonald, even though I think we outplayed them. We just gave them good field position a couple of times. I really wanted to win the league for the seniors, but I’m proud of the effort we’ve gotten and happy to be 9-1 right now.
Q. How have the players reacted to making the playoffs, but having to travel two hours away for the first game?
A. I think our region is the toughest one in the state from top to bottom. In other regions, there are teams getting in at 7-3 and 6-4. You have Warren JFK and Norwalk St. Paul, who aren’t your regular Division VI teams. We kind of see this as Rocky against Apollo Creed — we have 30 players on our roster and Norwalk has 68. But our kids are motivated and have taken the challenge. We respect every team in our region, but you have to be confident, because if you aren’t, they will just feed off that. We aren’t going over there just to make it a good showing; we’re going expecting to win.
Q. What is your typical halftime speech?
A. I just always remind the guys not to think they can coast in the second half. I tell them it’s ‘no holds barred’ and that they have to put teams away. We’re not trying to run up the score or anything, we just want them to play four complete quarters. If we don’t learn how to do that, it will hurt us later. So, I just get on them about that, make some corrections and get them motivated and ready to go for the second half.
Q. What’s on the bulletin board in the locker room?
A. At the beginning of the season, we met with the seniors and they each wrote their season goals on posters. We collected those and kept them. This week, we posted those goals and reminded them of what they wanted to accomplish. We have also had a countdown clock up there for the big games this season. Other than that, just a few motivating words and some pictures and rosters of some other teams.
Q. Who do you go to for coaching advice?
A. No. 1, my father [Russ Hake]. He’s as good as anyone around. He is in the Curbstone Hall of Fame and the Trumbull County Hall of Fame. He’s been coaching for 40 years and he knows how to treat people and kids. He coached at Brookfield in 1978 when they won a state title. He is really the reason for my coaching success. I’ve also talked to Brian Shaner and Coach [Bob] Spaite over at Columbiana and Phil [Annarella].
Q. How to do you approach scouting future opponents?
A. Well, we get the two tapes from their last two games and we break those down on Saturdays. We start thinking about defense first, then work on offensive stuff. We’ve put up some big numbers offensively, but defense has been key for us. We also talk to other coaches who know about an opponent. We do have some older coaches that went out to games this year. Three times, my father went out to scout opposing teams and with the league, you can get a couple teams at the same time.
Q. Do you have a quote, a philosophy or anything like that, that motivates you as a coach?
A. The biggest thing with me is that I want to win really badly. I’m intrinsically motivated; I don’t really need anything outside to motivate me. Just being around the boys and seeing them pumped up to play motivates me.
XInterview conducted by Vindicator correspondent Eric Hamilton.