There's no mistaking the upward trend that's happening in Teller County. For the last several years, Woodland Park hasn't necessarily been a dominant football team but there has been significant growth and the team overall looks ready for a breakout season.
A big part of that reason is the consistency that head coach Joe Roskam has brought to the program. From the time he was born, Roskam has been a football guy. He grew up with an old school background, but since he's joined the coaching ranks has grown more creative with his style of the game.
That creativity worked out in the Panthers first game of the year in which they took a road trip down to Alamosa and came away with 21-13 win over the Mean Moose.
The expectations for his boys are high this season and after getting a win in Week 1, Roskam has been named the Denver Broncos High School Coach of the Week.
* Years as head coach:* 17* Years at Woodland Park:* 9 (1-0 this season)* Previous stops*: Harrah (Okla.) assistant (1997-99), Cripple Creek/Victor head coach (2000-03), Sierra head coach (2004-11); Woodland Park head coach (2012-present).
Question: Why do you coach?
Roskam: The people that made a big difference in my life were my coaches when I was a kid. A lot of it has to do with my dad too. My dad was a small guy, but loved football. From the day I was born, I mean, I was 18 months old on the beach in North Carolina in a diaper playing with a football. I wouldn't know where I would be without the game. I'm just doing my very best to instill those same desires and wants and, you know, and really turn these young people into upstanding young men.
That's the goal, right? I know it's cliché, but [he'd say] you want to see what kind of team do I have? He goes, I'll let you know in 20 years when I find out we're kind of men they are. That's stealing it from the best, but that's definitely a big part of it.
Q: Why do you coach the way that you coach?
Roskam: That also comes from some of the situations that you grew up in. They have some coaches that were hard-nosed. They just wanted to get in there and run power all the time and you're going to gut it out. We'll run through a wall for you.
I was fortunate enough in my very first coaching job. I got to coach under a legend and his name was Glenn Poole in Oklahoma. He won several state championships and did it the right way. We were able to really have a lot of fun with the way that we did it. We ran our offense and the way we were in our defense and just being attacking in nature all the time. I was fortunate to be in Oklahoma the years that Bob Stoops finally took over, I was coaching in Oklahoma and Bob Stoops took over at the University of Oklahoma and Mike Leach happened to be the offensive coordinator. We got to talk with those guys a little bit and it just stuck.
That's when we started developing our spread passing game and trying to play as fast as we possibly can. There were a lot of people that I looked up to in the coaching profession and was just fortunate enough to be under a guy that really encouraged me to learn. Challenged me as a person, challenged me as a coach and a young guy. I give it up to Coach Poole and then our next one was Coach Battle.
I learned so much from those guys on how it's supposed to be and what our job really was. At first I thought we were just supposed to be football coaches, but the amount of time that they spent really getting to know young people and how to make a difference was huge. I can't thank them enough, you for giving me that opportunity.
Q: From your players' perspective, what do you think it's like to be coached by you?
Roskam: The expectation levels are high. Sometimes I would say that it's fun, but it's also challenging and that's kind of the goal. How do we make a practice challenging, but also want them to come back every single day and give everything that they've got? You have to find that balance between fun and really getting after them a little bit. So I think it's tough but at the same time, we're able to laugh at each other. We hug each other a lot. We say we love you a lot. We use those kinds of words and hopefully that's what they would say.
Q: What impressed you the most about your boys' ability to really start practice as quickly as you were able to start it and put themselves in a position to start the season 1-0?
Roskam: That's really on them. We were able to do some work over the summer, we were able to lift but we weren't able to do a whole lot more than that. I think the consistency and the proof in what we've been doing really helps us. We've been doing the same thing. For years, I actually started with this senior group when they were in fourth grade. I actually have a picture of me with this group of kids when they were just a pee wee league. The year before, our group here wasn't able to form a team and I just said that's never going to happen again. I actually started a club and this was my very first team. And for my son now as a senior, he was part of that group.
I started coaching these guys when they were that little, so they know the expectation. They've been coming up with me since they were little bitty and that's where they learned the expectations. As soon as we walked in, we just lined up and went "Hey, we need four-right, 63." Bam. Done. "We need three-right, 72." That's just how it is. We didn't have to take a long time to install. They were just ready to go. Now we had to get them back in shape because you know, they got a little chubby over COVID. That's been the hardest part is just getting them back in shape.
Q: Everyone talks about football being a great tool for life lessons. What are the life lessons that are going to be unique to the group of football players this year that you won't find anywhere else?
Roskam: The level of resiliency is going to be next to none. You're going to have to be uncompromisingly consistent right now in everything that you do. We're seeing around the state that some teams have chosen to hang out with other people outside of school and have had their seasons not necessarily cut short, but they're going to miss games. That idea of excellence in everything that we do, excellence in everything is going to be huge. You're going to have to make really great choices outside of here just to protect the program. That's going to be part of it. We're really asking a lot of these kids to put something above themselves.
Everybody is tired of computers and they're tired of being isolated, but they have to be able to take care of the program. They're going to have to be extremely disciplined and still sacrificing in order for you to complete all six games. Look at the Broncos right now, they're missing a game this week. That's going to be one of those life lessons that everybody learns. We're going to come out of this and see that we have kids that are even more disciplined as a result.
Q: Is it possible that once this season is over, that you and maybe more importantly, your boys get to appreciate the game of football more than maybe you ever thought you would?
Roskam: I don't even think it's going to be after the season. I think we're doing that right now. I mean, we're grateful every day that we get to get out and play, because not everybody's able to do it. And we actually got to play Friday night and there were several teams in the state that weren't able to, whether they're going in the spring or due to COVID, they had their games canceled. We're, we're appreciative of everything that we get right now, you and I'm so thankful that CHSAA and the governor actually allowed us to play. Some of these stipulations are really, really tough and some of our travel because of the way that our leagues have to be now are just crazy.
Trying to get everybody down to Alamosa was difficult in itself. And the fact that our kids were able to overcome those restrictions and guidelines, and it took us forever because we can only dress 10 at a time in a gym to get everybody out on the field and ready before the game and then show up and actually perform just shows their aptitude for excellence right now. They had every excuse in the world to go down there and not perform, but they did. They showed up and they played. I'm just excited that we're getting to play and just seeing these guys grow. It's awesome.