Large or small, high school football programs play a large part in bringing a community together. Some schools are tightly drilled powerhouses; others are just in it for fun. One thing’s undeniable, though: For the kids on the gridiron, football is vital. Joe Basil, the newly hired offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Park High School Orioles, says it’s time for what he calls a “culture change” in The Park. “Our number-one job is to begin to make football important for the kids again,” he says. “I think it’s pretty much a matter of record and recent history that St. Louis Park High School has just not had a lot of success on the football field,” Basil says. “We’re trying to bump the football program up to where it’s meaningful again.” “When we talk to former players, or even just the student body—kids lose interest when there’s not success, and because they haven’t had a lot of success, then the interest wanes,” he says. Basil, along with his coaching partners Ben Wolfe (head coach) and Phil McClure (special teams coordinator), came from Washburn High School in Minneapolis. The trio was hired in March to turn the Orioles’ football program around. Basil says the first step to improve a football program is to focus on the coaching staff and its chemistry. “The coaches become the team just as well as the players,” Basil says. “Ben and I worked long and hard when we hired the staff here.” Basil and his team retained the offensive line coach and defensive coordinator from the previous coaching staff, “but everybody else is brand-new.” The second step, Basil says, is to interview players to identify areas of improvement and growth. “We have kind of a ’20 questions’ model that we use, because you’re looking for background information,” Basil says. “We just wanted to get to know the kids a little bit.” After that, Basil says, it’s on to learning the mechanics of football while instilling the importance of team building. “One of the first things we did was we started to hold kids accountable for coming to practice and what they did at practice,” he says. “You also start to find out things like, ‘How much athleticism do we have?’ and ‘Who might be playing where?’ But mainly, it’s more about expectations—that if we call a meeting, you’ll be there on time for the meeting.” “Football, to me, is the ultimate team sport, because there’s 11 folks out at any one time, and if ten people do their jobs and one guy doesn’t, the whole thing can go south,” Basil says. “That’s what we’re emphasizing a lot.” While Basil and his team have experience most recently at Washburn, they’ve worked at other schools around the state, and he says they use their experience as a base. “We know what a successful program looks like. That doesn’t mean that St. Louis Park is going to be a clone of that, but you draw upon that,” he says. “You know what works, and what’s worked in other places, so you take that model and you move forward.” The Orioles football team is currently practicing for their first game on Friday, August 23—a nonconference home game against Jackson County Central. Friday, September 6 is the first conference game of the season, against Fridley. Basil and his staff are also focusing on getting younger kids involved in football in St. Louis Park. “It’s one thing to have great seniors and juniors, but you really have to get the young kids excited,” he says. “We had three days where we had what’s called Oriole Camp, where kids from third grade on came and we put them through the same basic, fundamental drills. It gives us a chance to talk about St. Louis Park football and get them excited.” “That’s what we hammer all the time: team, team, team. We talk about the fact that successful teams are about big circles and not little circles,” Basil says. “It’s not always about the best athletes on the team; it’s about everybody, because everybody contributes. Everybody plays a role.”
Revamped Orioles Football Team Gear Up for Season
A new coaching staff aims to raise the profile of the St. Louis Park High School football team.