By Shaun Szkolnik, sports editor
SPRINGVILLE – This is the second year that the Springville football program will be under the direction of Head Coach Michael Graben. Graben understands the challenges Springville faces in a very competitive region. He also knows that the young men he is coaching understand the challenges, as well.
“We knew last year when they put us in this region that it was going to be tough,” said Graben. “After trying to tell the kids that they didn’t understand it. Being in this region for a year now, they understand it.”
For Springville, this season provides a special opportunity to rekindle some rivalries and to make their mark on the gridiron.
“It is only a rivalry game if you win them,” said Graben. “It had been so long since we beat Moody that I don’t know how much of a rivalry it was. So, for us to get a chance to win last year, to get an opportunity to do that, it really turns it into more of a rivalry for our kids. St. Clair is the same way. They beat us eight or nine years in a row, so we’re very excited … it is a great opportunity to play those kinds of teams.”
Graben knows the keys to a successful season and how to get there.
“Our top of the line guys have got to stay healthy,” said Graben. “I think we’re getting off to a good start. Definitely the key to health and a good start is to continually work. Even though Springville had more success on the football field (last year), our kids worked so hard. That … was something with Coach Davis before me and Coach Baker before him. The kids have always worked hard. So, we’ve just got to transfer that working hard into maybe something good on the field.”
Springville has a lot of talent to work with, including some contributions from talent from the high school’s other successful athletic programs.
“We’ve got 22 returning seniors and a lot of them will contribute this year,” said Graben. “We have several kids coming out for the first time. We’ve got some basketball players out … trying to get a few baseball players, but it is a little harder to get baseball players out now that they’ve won a state championship.”
When asked what the goal is for this year, Graben did not hesitate to say that the goal for this year, and every year, is the brass ring.
“10 and 0. That is our goal every year,” said Graben. “We break it down on state every day, we break it down on state. Because if you don’t say it, you will never believe that it is going to happen.”
Graben has a unique style to making practices as fun as they can be. He is aware that excellence on the football field, and in life, requires a lot of hard work and that hard work will not always be the most enjoyable thing to do; still there are measures that may be taken that will maximize the amount of enjoyment the players get from the experience while ensuring the maximum amount of productivity from their efforts.
“There is nothing you can do to make 110 degree, in pads, in sun fun after you’ve been in school fun,” said Graben. “There is no way you can make it fun … we want to spread it out. Throw a little bit, run, and even when we’re doing it, we still want to go fast. We practice fast, it makes it a lot more fun. If you can go out there and get 40 or 50 reps in an hour and a half, it makes it more fun than getting in five reps while the coach is standing talking to you. That is what we try to do. Try to do our coaching in between plays.”
Culture is an important ingredient of whatever it is a person chooses to be a part of. Football is no exception. Graben believes in a culture that is expressed in three words: commitment, character, discipline. Mastery of these elements not only creates a great football team, but it creates great men.
“Our three goals of our program are commitment, character and discipline,” said Graben. “We try to reach character and commitment and discipline … we always want to leave better men than they were when they came in. Trying to change the culture of men is the most important thing.”