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Mustangs football looks to revamp program with new strategies

Marble Falls football

Members of the Marble Falls Mustangs football team celebrate a strong performance by junior Jaime Castillo during one of the team’s competition days on March 31. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

After only winning two games in the 2022 season, the Marble Falls Mustangs football team has turned to unorthodox strategies to unlock a new level of grit, toughness, and physicality as the squad enters the halfway point of the offseason.

Initiatives deployed this offseason include the reintroduction of the team’s book study program, an offseason-long points tracker designed to promote competition, and a T-shirt rewards system to symbolize each player’s current status in the program.

Marble Falls head coach Brian Herman said the idea to refresh his team’s culture came as a direct result of the squad’s performance last season.

“After such a rough year this year, I decided we needed to go back as if we’re starting the whole program over — a complete reboot,” he said.

One of the key programs Herman thinks will have a lasting impact on the team this upcoming season was a book study on “The 10 Pillars of Mental Performance Mastery” by Brian Cain.

“It’s a good and easy read,” he said. “It’s essentially a story about a guy who’s going through adversity and how he rewires his brain on how to think about things. That’s what I felt like we really, really needed.”

While the team has hosted two other book studies during Herman’s almost four-year tenure, the coach said this year’s analysis was more detailed than ever before.

“We did one during my first year on the ‘Energy Bus’ by Jon Gordon, and it actually went extremely well,” he said. “We did another book study a year or two ago on a book also by Jon Gordon called ‘Training Camp.’ That was good, but I don’t think we did as good of a job intentionally getting a discussion going about it. This year, we’ve really got the guys to buy in.”

Players started reading Cain’s work in late November and were able to wrap up the in-depth look at the book’s teachings by February.

“It was a really good thing for us,” Herman said. “We’d meet every Friday, and since the chapters are super small, we’d cover eight or nine chapters a week.”

Herman said the response by his team — and even from students outside of the program — was more positive than anything he hoped for.

“It was a really rewarding thing,” he said. “I even had some kids coming in that weren’t even in football. They saw what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it.”

The Mustangs coaching staff hopes the new book will give players more strategies on how to remain persistent and determined during on- and off-the-field hardships.

“We needed to rewire our brains on how we perceive things and how we react when we face adversity,” Herman said.

Outside of the book study, the team has also used an offseason-long points tracker that aims to promote excellence in any environment by tabulating player success on the field and inside the classroom.

“They can earn as many points as they can lose,” Herman said. “It basically determines whether you’re a positive or negative influence in our program.”

As part of the points program, all players on the team were given plain white T-shirts with their last names printed in permanent marker on the back to start the offseason. As the offseason has progressed, players have been given the opportunity to “rank-up” their shirts to different colors based on their points earned inside and outside the classroom.

“We have the white plain T-shirt as if you haven’t really done anything to positively contribute to the program,” Herman said. “If they’ve earned ‘X’ number of points, they graduate from a white plain T-shirt to a gray sleeveless. Then, they go from a gray (shirt) to a black (shirt) and then from a black (shirt) to a purple (shirt) to the elite, which is our gold (shirt).”

Herman said the points-for-shirts program has injected new life and energy into the team during practices and drills.

“I think by putting the shirts out there, the kids are asking themselves, ‘Why am I still in this shirt? What do I have to do to get to the next shirt?’” he said. “I get kids coming in almost every single day wanting to know when we are going to do another shirt reveal because the kids don’t want to be in those white, gray, and blacks. They want to be in the purple and gold, our school colors.”

The coach hopes the combination of book study, points system, and shirts program will help his team find itself in a position similar to the squad’s 9-4 finish in the 2021 season.

“The whole point of this is because we need to act like we’re starting the entire program over,” Herman said. “We did a good job on the front end of everything, but maybe we lost our focus along the way somewhere. That may have led to some of the things we dealt with this year. These things that we’re doing will help us get back on track.”