Adam Smith doesn’t blame you if you view him with skepticism.
Why wouldn’t you?
Over the last seven years, his Valley Huskers football team has gone through four coaches. Smith follows in the footsteps of Tyson St. James, who followed in the footsteps of Luke Acheson who followed in the footsteps of Howie Zaron.
None were very successful. Zaron won back to back coach of the year awards in 2007 and 2008, leading the Huskers to a 6-4 record in one of those years. And that was the high water mark.
Smith takes over a team that went 2-7-1 last year, 1-9-0 the year before and 0-10 the two years before that.
“I wish I could give some magic words would make everyone believe it will happen,” Smith said of a 2014 turnaround. “But they won’t believe it until we do something. We need to prove ourselves and there’s no magic formula.”
That said, Smith is determined to do some things differently, and it starts with recruiting.
Over the past few years, the Husker sales pitch has been, ‘You won’t see the field with a top team like Nanaimo or Langley. Come here and you’ll play.’ And maybe, when you’ve got no other cards to play, that’s the pitch you need to use.
But when you really examine it, it’s a loser’s pitch.
“To me, it was completely wrong the way we’ve been doing recruiting, that and going after these ‘white unicorn’ players who weren’t going to come here,” Smith said bluntly. “My approach is to find guys from winning programs who know how to win and want to be a part of this. Winning is a culture and an attitude. I’m looking for guys who are diamonds in the rough, guys who maybe were average/role players on provincial championship teams. But they come from winning programs and know how to win.”
Smith has energy and enthusiasm to spare, and his own football resume is peppered with winning programs.
Five provincial championship appearances at the high school level, with two championships. He was the offensive coordinator for GW Graham’s junior team as they beat the Ballenas Whalers in the AA title game last November.
He’s also spent the past few summers helping out with the NCAA’s Texas Tech Red Raiders, a team noted for running a successful spread offence. Asked to describe his coaching philosophy, Smith throws out two words.
“I’m a high-energy guy, the teams I’ve coached have always been the most high-energy teams and they’ve always won,” he said. “The way you do things as a coach will rub off on a team. We want to play quick and aggressive. The spread offence should play well in this league, and we’ve got to be more aggressive on defence. Most of all, I want what we do to be fun.”
Smith will be helped by a revamped off-the-field structure. With the hiring of Mo Agagnier as the team’s first-ever general manager, Smith hopes he won’t have to deal with all of the off-the-field distractions past coaches were saddled with.
“I made some requests, and without seeing those requests made I didn’t want to step in,” Smith said. “Mo will be our voice to the board of directors on things that affect football, and he’s got tons of experience. One of the most important things is to let the coaching staff do what we do and then back us up.”
When Smith surveys the local football landscape, he sees tremendous success at the community and high-school levels. His main motivation in taking a job most would shy away from is extending that success to the junior ranks.
“I would be nice to have a place for the kids we’re developing in the community and high school leagues to play and reach their dreams,” he mused. “This community has supported this team, and this team hasn’t given as much back. It’s time we gave them something to be proud of.”