The Calvary six-man football team is taking a slightly unorthodox approach in its naming of a new head coach and has hired two former Southeastern Oklahoma State players as co-head coaches.
Specializing in sports performance training at Game On Athletics, a Denton indoor athletic complex, 25-year-old Bernard Daniel and 24-year-old Lionel “LG” Gillespie have been entrusted with the responsibility of continuing the Lions’ progress after they made the TAPPS playoffs the past two seasons.
“It’s something unique, and I think it’s going to work well because they work so well together,” Calvary athletic director Jay Houser said. “Six-man is such a different game anyway. We are stepping up to Division I from Division II to play the big boys. The advantage Calvary will have now is that we are the only school in the area with an indoor practice facility.”
With former head coach Jason McBride taking time to focus on his publishing company, Daniel and Gillespie will utilize their years of experience together to tackle coaching duties with each bringing a unique skill set and perspective.
“When we are doing things our separate ways, we are not as effective as when we put our heads together for one objective,” Gillespie said. “I feel like we both bring two separate parts to coaching. He is a skills type of person, and I am more technical and everything that requires physicality.”
Daniel played several secondary positions at Southeastern and Daniel played primarily at defensive end and linebacker. The duo’s alliance began early in their college careers, with Daniel later introducing Gillespie to performance training.
“On my first visit [to Southeastern], Bernard Daniel was the first person to show me around,” Gillespie said. “We became a family. When I graduated, I got a call from Bernard about sports performance training. I fell in love with training people, getting people better and being able to be a mentor in people’s lives.”
With Daniel and Gillespie developing a prosperous partnership, the co-head coaches have decided that Gillespie will head up the offensive responsibilities with Daniel taking over the defensive duties.
“Game On has definitely opened up my passion for performance training, and I’m trying to focus on skills training,” Daniel said. “That is what Lionel does well and that’s why we are going to be great coaches together.”
Houser recognizes the need for supreme conditioning, with many of last year’s players manning positions on both sides of the ball, and he says Daniel and Gillespie are the right combination to move the team in that direction.
“Once we figured out that we were going to be in Division I again, we really wanted to raise the bar to the conditioning of our athletes, and these coaches are phenomenal choices for that initiative,” Houser said. “They definitely have the football swagger, and these guys are going to be so fundamentally sound and in such great shape.
“This is a team that made the playoffs the last two years with a core group of guys made up of freshmen and sophomores. We have 12 good players, but we need more players because ideally you want about 18 or 19 guys on your team. As a coach, you either get it or you don’t, and these guys get it.”
After holding practices at Game On for two weeks, Daniel thinks the team has made more progress with coaching and training than other groups he has seen.
“They have adopted what we have brought in to them faster than I’ve seen in group of kids in any type of football practice,” Daniel said. “They have come a long way in the past couple years.”
Calvary’s jump to Division I will put it in a district with Dallas Covenant, Greenville Christian, Rockwall Heritage Christian, Watauga Harvest Christian and Dallas Tyler Street Christian, which beat the Lions in the opening round of the playoffs last season.
Houser said the last game of the season against Tyler Street likely will decide a playoff spot and believes the Lions are ready for the rematch.
Daniel and Gillespie are taking their first steps into six-man coaching and are thankful to have someone to rely on along the way.
“At this point in my life, it’s huge for me,” Gillespie said. “This allows me to express my aspirations for my game. I’m excited because I know that Calvary will grow, that I will grow, and we will be able to bring in more talent and win more.
“To know that someone that I’ve been with for seven to eight years is right there by my side is huge mentally.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.