By CINDY CROSBY
Coach Kristopher Howell was named as the new head of the Colleton County Cougar Football program Wednesday April 21, 2021. Here, we sit down with Coach Howell to ask him about his plans for the Colleton County Cougar Football Program.
What interested you in the job as the Cougar’s head football coach?
I was interested in this job because of the type of kids we have here at CCHS. We have good kids, hard-working kids. They want a chance to better themselves and compete at a high level. Unfortunately, most of them do not know how to do these things. They must be shown. That is what I am here to do. I am here to teach them work ethic. I am here to teach them organization and planning. Moreover, I am here to teach them how the lessons learned through athletic competition can set them up for future success once their high school days have ended.
Where do you currently live and do you plan to relocate to Walterboro?
My wife and I currently reside in Summerville, SC. Over the past five years, we have moved three times, so neither of us have any plans on moving again for quite a while. More importantly, we now live two minutes away from my wife’s work. She has a short, easy commute each morning to a job she loves. That means more to me than I can explain.
What do feel are the most important components to establishing Colleton County as a dominant force in Region 7-AAAA football this upcoming season?
The only way to establish this program is to stop thinking year to year and begin planning for the future. For too long, we have only been concerned with coaching the varsity program while the junior varsity and the middle school programs went neglected. If things are going to change, then these kids must be coached and trained on the same level as the varsity players. This plan will not provide success this year, however. It will pay off in a few years when kids who are in middle school now reach the high school. They will have been trained and coached consistently for several years by then and will be prepared to play the sport at a much higher level.
Spring practice is just around the corner. In your first days as the Cougar’s new football coach, what plans have you put together?
The first days on the job have been busy, and I intend to make the most of this time. We are currently meeting with members of the staff to make sure they are on board with the change. Then, we will meet with the players so they understand the spring practice schedule and the plan for the summer. Next, we must begin recruiting those kids we lost due to COVID to get them back into the program. We also have a lot of work to do to get physicals completed, to get our equipment inventoried, and to set up the middle school weight room so that kids there will have a place to train. These are just a few of the things we are working on right now. Clearly, there are tons of things that must be done before the first player can step out on the field for practice.
Establishing a knowledgeable, cohesive, supportive coaching staff is likely a priority – how is this falling into place?
I am currently in the process of interviewing each member of the staff to find out whether they are interested in continuing to coach here. I believe we have everyone we need on staff already. I plan to reassign many coaches to put more emphasis on the middle school and junior varsity programs. Those kids must be coached and trained at a high level if this program is going to prosper. We have the men here to do the job, and it is up to me to get them moving in the right direction.
Being part of the staff last season, what are a few standout things you would like to build upon or change for the fall?
Not to sound like the proverbial broken record, but the first thing that must change is the attention given to the middle school and junior varsity programs. We must do a better job coaching and training those kids. They will become one of the focal points of our program, and I believe this will set everyone up for future success. The thing that stood out the most that needs to be built upon is that our kids finally learned how to win games rather than lose them. Most high school coaches will tell you that games are lost more often than they are won. That has certainly been the case in my time here; I cannot count the number of times we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It has been extremely frustrating for our players, to say the least. This year, however, saw a turning point. Our guys learned how to force the other team into mistakes instead of committing mistakes of our own. That led to a three-game winning streak to end our year and the first winning season in quite a while here at CCHS. We must continue to build on that success, and we have a plan to do so.
Having had the opportunity to meet with players who are returning, what was your initial impression and their reaction to the opportunities ahead?
More than anything, the players are ready to get to work. They have been very anxious throughout this process, but now they are ready to begin the process of preparing for the season. We have been strength training for months, but we can now add in position-specific skill training to get them better prepared for spring and summer practice. We have great kids here at CCHS. They are hard-working and very eager to learn, and I am extremely fortunate to be able to coach such a group of young men.
What are the core values and expectations you will demand from the players?
We will have a list of four absolutes for this program which will apply to both the coaches and the players. This list will make our expectations for conduct on and off the field perfectly clear. As for core values, we will put a premium on hard work, training, and preparation. These are values that will carry over into their lives outside of high school, which is why we must stress them early and often in the initial stages of our preparation.
Academics – how important, how accountable?
Academics must be stressed for a wide variety of reasons, and I strongly believe in a chain of responsibility in handling academic concerns that begins with the students. If the student refuses to take care of his or her academics, then he or she must learn that there are severe repercussions, namely losing eligibility and the opportunity to compete in sports. This is going to be one of the program’s absolutes, and I will not waiver from it. This is one of the most important lessons that a young man can learn.
What are the first steps you will take toward building the Cougar Football program – specifically retaining players interest at the JV/Varsity level and developing pride in the program?
We are currently in the process of addressing this. First, we are going to designate specific individuals to staff the middle school and JV programs. These staffs will work alongside the varsity staff but will not have to split time working with the varsity as they have in the past. To retain players, the first thing that must happen is to establish consistency in the way things are done. Rules must be enforced the same way every day. Training must be conducted the same way every day. Coaching must be done at a high level every day. This type of consistency leads to success which will in turn encourage players to stay with the program. They will know that the coaches are invested in them.
How important are the feeder programs in our community? How involved do you hope/plan to be?
The feeder programs are vital because they are after all our future. My first obligation must be to the school-based programs, but I plan on working closely with the All-stars and Little-Leagues as well. First, however, I must show them that I am worth working with. Right now, they do not know who I am or what I can do. Therefore, I must show them. In time, I believe these groups will see that I have something to offer, and we can begin a partnership that will allow us to better our players in sports and outside of them as well.
What are some ways you intend to build relationships within the community and revive pride in the program?
Once again, I believe that I must show them that I am the man for this job. That cannot be done overnight. It also cannot be done through boasting and arrogance. Only through my hard work and dedication to the program will the community see that I have the best interests of their young men at the forefront of my mind. I plan on proving this to them this year and continuing to prove it for years to come. Community pride in the program will come as the program begins to be successful. Again, this is not an overnight process. It is going to take time to fix the problems and get the program moving in the right direction.
Finally, will the Cougars have a new look in 2021-2022?
I have never been one to worry about the look of the uniforms or the appearance of the playing field. My concern is for the athletes wearing the uniforms and playing on said field. All my energy will be directed to them. I think our colors are the best in the state, and we plan on representing them with pride and honor.