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A natural transition

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Former Explorer K-8 sports coach Robert Walden is beginning to settle in as Central’s new head football coach. The transition from coaching middle school sports to high school sports seems to be a natural one for Walden.

The Bears football program has struggled to surpass two wins over the last ten years but the hope is that Walden’s seven seasons of coaching a variety of middle school sports from football to tennis may generate a new path for the Bears.

Walden said that this team isn’t looking for state or district championships; their season goal is to place some numbers on the wins side.

“They just want to get some wins, and the expectation is that we are going to win a few ball games,” said Walden.

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Getting to know these players is an essential part of introducing himself as the new head football coach. A straightforward way to get to know his team was to talk with the players, one on one starting with the seniors.

“Basically we sat down and talked a little bit about last season, and we’ll never talk about it again,” Walden said. “They gave me their thoughts on what they thought was good about last year, what they thought that wasn’t so good. I am taking all that in.”

This process began a solid start for Walden, building trust between coaches and players. The connection paved the way for him to understand the players’ individual goals as well as team goals.

“I think it’s super important to build that culture, to let them know you care,” said Walden.

There is another facet Walden is bringing to the team, and that is image. He’s not talking about brand name clothing or fashionable bling. He’s talking about how every player’s action makes a representation of the entire Central football team.

“We want to be disciplined and want these kids to understand who they represent. Like when they are in the community, they’ve got to understand that they are Central football players and they are held to certain standards,” Walden said.

Another change in the works for the Bears, is the way helmet stickers are achieved. Helmet stickers are awarded per outstanding performance or accomplishment either as an individual player or team. This season, players will only earn Central C’s stickers not for on the field plays, but for what they do in the classroom and for the community.

Walden explained within a short amount of time they have before the season begins, they are all learning about each other. Working and developing that chemistry to build strength and team character.

“That is something I am implementing to get the players caring more about other things rather than just football,” Walden said. “The upperclassmen have already taken to what I am trying to do, and we are already developing that chemistry.”

Central’s first game is at Umatilla High School on August 23. This game between the Bulldogs and Bears has something in common: both teams are starting off the season with a new head coach.

“I am excited to be here, and I can’t wait to get started and hit the ground running,”

Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein has over 35 years experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist working with neurologically impaired adults. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Florida in Speech Pathology.
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