'Friday night lights' has nothing on 'Tuesday afternoon decorum'

Waterford — The whole "Friday night lights" thing became a thing many years ago now, a way to illuminate how high school football has become a piece of Americana, graduating from just a game to an entire social concept.

This just in: "Friday night lights" has nothing on "Tuesday afternoon decorum," which has only become the most fun part of the week at Waterford High.

And to think the Lancers have struggled with numbers problems in recent years. If the rest of the student body saw the fun those kids were having Tuesday afternoon during what could have been the drudgery of practice, they wouldn't have enough uniforms for all the converts.

"Decorum," the brainchild of coach John Strecker, is a series of drills aimed to properly shape the behavior — and establish an ethos — for the entire program. Decorum's four-pronged ideology — finish the play, celebration, substitution and clock management — had the kids running their assets off, all while having the most fun they had all week.

"With the 40-second clock coming in, the first thing I wanted to do is to make sure the ball gets back to the line of scrimmage in a timely fashion," Strecker said, alluding to the rule this year where the 40-second play clock begins when the officials declare the play dead.

"I started with the receivers bringing the ball back to the ref, even if it's dropped. Then it dawned on me that they didn't know that was the thing to do. We talk to them all the time about how we want them to behave. It's a way for them to get conditioning in, too."

Decorum begins with the players split into groups of four:

• Finish the play: Assistant coach Mike Strecker gets about a 40-yard start and mimics an opposing player running down field for a touchdown. The players in this drill have to run him down from behind. (Senior Matt Sanford actually did so last Friday in the Montville game.) It's very competitive and Mike Strecker tends to be entertaining anwyay.

• Substitution: They practice sprinting on and off the field between plays. Keyword: sprinting. Even if they're gassed. Narration by assistant coach Tim Lineburgh.

• Clock management: After the play is over downfield, the players grab the ball and run it back to the official at the line of scrimmage. Commentary by assistant coach Zach Nolda.

• Celebration: This is the most fun. John Strecker does not want his players celebrating on the field. So they practice celebrating off it.

The players practice scoring a touchdown and handing the ball to the official. Not tossing. Handing. Then they sprint off the field and get to celebrate on their own sideline — away from the other team and the officials — in all the creative ways they want.

There was the double bicep pose, mic drop, posing for a picture (remembering they needed one guy to take the picture), fishing, the rowboat, tug of war and the personal favorite: bowling.

Junior Rasheem Steele pretended to roll a bowling ball at his teammates. Then they all fell down like pins. Brilliant.

And there is never a time during any of the drills the kids aren't on the dead run. They don't even know it. All they are doing is laughing.

Who knew sports could still be fun?

Strecker should go the window and collect. He has something that's hilarious, ingenious and utterly practical. He is teaching the necessary concept of decorum through fun. It means his kids will only absorb every detail.

Once again: Who knew fun was still an option? This is football, remember. There is no sense of proportion to the stories surrounding football and the potential for injury anymore. There is no reaction. Just overreaction. Yet what anyone watching would have seen on some nothing Tuesday afternoon was a bunch of kids staying in shape, learning timeless lessons and making memories of a lifetime.

Note to all you parents and kiddies who chose not to play football in the 06385 this season: You don't know what you're missing. Bowling pins have never been happier to be playing their sport.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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