FELTON, DE – We are starting a new WBOC web series called “Interview of the Week.” Each week I will interview a local sports figure on Delmarva. Today, we go to Felton to find out a little more about Lake Forest football head coach Freddie Johnson.
Just last week, Johnson guided the Spartans to their second straight Henlopen South division championship. Lake Forest is guaranteed a spot in the D-2 State Playoffs.
1. Were you born and raised on Delmarva? Where did you go to college? Did you play any sports in college? What was that experience like?
I was born in Milford, DE 1972, raised in Harrington, DE in a low-income 50 unit apartment complex called Clarks Corner. Growing up in Clarks Corner was a great experience, the adults in the neighborhood looked out for all the children, children looked out for each other and I learned so much growing up in Clarks Corner. I watched my mother work very very hard so we could have everything we needed. She was always loving, caring and she would discipline me when I got out of hand. I had a stepfather that taught me how to be a man and to work to get what I wanted. I graduated from Lake Forest high school in 1990 where I played football, wrestling and track & field. I was 1st team all conference, 2nd team all-state for football, 2nd team all conference and 3rd place state wrestling, 2nd team all conference and 2nd team all state track & field. I attended Delaware State University where I wrestled and received a full wrestling and partial track scholarship. The college experience was fun, I lived off campus with friends, I worked at UPS all through college, attended my classes and participated on the wrestling team. I was a three-time MEAC Conference wrestling champion and I graduated with a Health and Physical Education degree. Participating in college sports was fun, I enjoyed the trips with my teammates and competing at the college level. My most memorable wrestling experience was wrestling at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. When we arrived at Duke people were camping out at the arena, I thought they were trying to see our wrestling match. Later I learned all the students were camping out and waiting in line for the Duke and UNC- Charlotte basketball game which was starting later that same evening. I defeated the Duke wrestler 5 – 2 but I was disappointed all those people were not there to see our wrestling match, they were there to get tickets for a basketball game.
2. Why do you love coaching?
I really enjoy sports, especially football, and I enjoy working with young people. Coaching allows me to work with young men and women. I enjoy using athletics to help the student-athletes prepare for life after high school. The things that are required to be a successful athlete and a good teammate are the same things people need to be successful in life. The players must be on time, work well with others, follow directions, be disciplined, make good choices, care about others, work hard, be coachable and be respectful. If we can get our athletes to do these things we know they are going to be okay.
3. Under your guidance, the Lake Forest football program is becoming a consistent winner again. How were you able to change the culture so fast? Set the right goals and constantly raise the bar.
A winning culture is not just about setting the right goals and pushing hard toward milestones. It is about measuring performance, learning from mistakes, and holding everyone accountable. Accountability can come in many forms, but in a truly winning culture that has the right people doing the right things, people hold themselves accountable. We try to create an environment of trust and care. Once the players know you care about them they will give you more. We created a family environment and try to make our players feel a part of something special, we end every practice by saying “One Team, One Family.” When our players leave our program they know that were a part of something special and they will have a life-long connection with the Lake Forest football program.
4. What are your short and long term goals as the head football coach at Lake Forest?
My short term goals are to continue to help our student-athletes with life after high school, such as military, college, or job. We currently have 70 – 80 players, I would like to increase the player participation numbers around 100 kids every year. The more players we get out for our program the more lives we are able to touch and direct in a positive way. I would like the Lake Forest football program to be a place where student-athletes know they are going to work hard, be loved, be disciplined and most importantly be a part of a unique family. My long term goal is to get former players to come back and coach and run the program the same way it is being run today. We expect our players to be good people, be respectful and treat other people the right way. We hold our players accountable for their behaviors both negative and positive behaviors. We expect our players to be leaders in the school and in the community. We do not focus on winning, if we can get our players to work hard, be discipline and care about each other and the program, the winning will come. We have had several players leave our football program and play at the next level, I would like to continue to see our players graduate and attend college. If they are able to continue to play football that is a bonus.
5. Take me through a typical day of coaching varsity high school football. I don’t think many people realize all the work coaches put in on a daily basis.
Coaching high school football at a competitive level is a year around job. We attend coaches clinics in the off season, manage a weight room for kids to have the ability to workout, attend 7 on 7 events to help your kids get ready for the season. We spend hours building practice plans and watching film. Here is my schedule once the season starts.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday– 2:35 – 3:15 study hall / 3:30-5:30 practice. After practice coaches meet to discuss players and any changes to the scheme for the week. 6:30 – 7pm go home and create practice plan for next day. 7 pm until I fall asleep, that is my family time. I put my youngest daughter to bed every night around 8:30 pm, I try to watch television and talk to my wife every night until I fall asleep. (anytime between 8:45 – 10 pm)
Thursday – 2:35 – 3:15pm study hall / 3:30-5:30 pm practice. Go home watch television with my wife and try not to think or talk about football. (TV shows: Greys Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder) I normally finish watching television around 11 pm with my wife. Thursday night is her night. She likes when I watch those particular shows with her, she has to wake me up a few times but its all good. It makes her feel good that I try to stay up and watch her shows with her.
Friday – 230-3pm Team Chapel. We have a youth pastor come in and share the gospel with our players for those that are interested 3 – 3:45pm Team Dinner. The coaches serve the players, 3:45 – 5 pm. Players get taped and go over any last minute notes and reminders on the game. If we are home we are on the field by 6pm for pregame if we are away the times may change as it depends on the bus. Once the game is over we need to load the game film on to Hudl and trade films with other coaches if possible. Then I break down our game film and make notes for Sundays coaches meeting.
Saturday – 6 am watch film, wash uniforms, I try to get these things done early. I try to do as much as I possibly can in the morning to keep my afternoons free for my wife and family. Saturday evening I am watching college football and preparing for my Sunday coaches meeting.
Sunday – 5:30 am we have a two hour to two and half hour coaches meeting and watch film together as coaches and finalize our game plan for the week. 8:30 am church w/family, 10:30 am basketball w/friends (I have been playing basketball with the same group of guys for about 13 years), 1- 4 pm I catch up on my yard work and any outside chores, 4 pm until that is my time with my family, I normally try to watch more game film Sunday evening while catching some of the Sunday night NFL game of the week. Then we start all over again.
6. Your impressions of the Henlopen Conference in terms of football. Do you feel like the quality of football is getting better every season?
The Henlopen South is very competitive this year. Every team is capable of winning the division. The quality of football is getting better every year because the coaches and players are putting more time in the off season.
7. What advice would you give to high school student-athletes hoping to play any sport at the collegiate level?
My advice would be to be organized and be able to manage your time wisely so that you are able to handle the academic load in college. As far as athletics, you must be ready to compete. When I had wrestling practice in college everybody in the room was a good wrestler therefore I could never take breaks or slack off. I had to work hard at all times if I wanted to represent my team on match day. Your parents can’t call the coach, there is no favoritism, you will have to compete to earn your position.