Refocus on Focus, Refocus on Focus, Focus on Your Refocus

New head football coach establishes team culture
New Head Football Coach Kevin Sherman addresses the team before morning workouts.
New Head Football Coach Kevin Sherman addresses the team before morning workouts.
Cody Gibson

Newly hired Head Football Coach Kevin Sherman has a certain feeling about coming back home.

“First off, I’m truly honored and blessed an thankful for the opportunity, because this is where my coaching career started. To come back as the head coach this time, it’s very special and dear to my heart,” said Sherman, born in Radford, VA. 

Most coaches strive to be head coaches at the highest level, but Sherman is a little different.

“Throughout my coaching career, I wanted to be a head coach. It didn’t matter what level. I just want to help lead young men to be the best version of themselves. To come back to Ferrum where it all started for me as a player, as a coach it’s surreal. Of course, it’s new to me, but you know, I’m having fun. I got good people and coaches around me, so that makes the transition easier,” said Sherman.

When becoming a coach of any level, there’s a process that they have to go through, but Athletic Director Cleive Adams knew Sherman before the hire. The two have kept in contact throughout their respective coaching journeys.

“I had to go through the same thing every other candidate went through, but you know we talked about his (Adams’) vision and what President Dr. Martin’s was. It was like-minded people, and the vision was similar,” Sherman said. “We want the same thing, and that’s our men to win on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the community, and in life. That’s why I didn’t hesitate when this opportunity came up.”

Coaches who have been in the game longer have more experience, which can bring better advice or plans to teams.

“When you are a young coach, you want to do so much; you want to learn so much, and be a sponge. You want to get to the highest level in this profession,” Sherman said. “I think the biggest thing I got in my coaching career is I’ve prided myself on being around the right people–not so much about the money, the prestige. I always wanted to be around good people because if I was around good people, I knew I’d have an opportunity to win.”

In anything in life, there are steps, and people can’t start Step Two without beginning and completing Step One, and that still applies to the Panthers as they get ready to start their spring ball. 

“Being in my third week, the first step is getting to know all the players in the locker room and creating bonds with them because it starts here,” Sherman said. “I don’t want to go chasing down recruits. (I want to put) a real emphasis on the team right now.”.

Players might want to know the human behind the coach and understand what he thinks.

“They want to know me as a person, as a man, and as a coach. I want them to understand that it’s not what I know, but where I’ve been. I want them to understand that I care about them as young men, students, and then as athletes,” said Sherman. 

Sherman has brought something new with him that resets every Monday.

Its name is “Day Zero.”

“What that means is: A zero-day is zero misses. Zero lates. Zero excuses,” Sherman said.

He said the idea is to stack those days together and get better each day.

“If we compound those days, we will have a better day. We’re moving toward where we want to be. We’re not there yet. It’s still a process. I understand that they understand that. At the end of the day do your best,” said Sherman.

The process could be a short one or sometimes a long one. For Adams, hiring the new coach was a process in and of itself.

“I was tasked with the job of replacing myself, which was very interesting,” Adams said. “I put together a search committee of different departments on campus. I compiled all the resumes from HR and sorted through 120 (of them).”

Adams said he took to the challenge.

 “I categorized every one of them and looked at every single one of them and came up with three that I felt like deserved an opportunity to interview,” he said.

Coaches who have been around the game tend to pick up certain traits to make them offensive or defensive-minded coaches, and Adams had a certain trait in mind when searching for his replacement.

“I wanted an offensive mind,” he said. “We had the defensive side of the ball in place with Coach Anthony Koniezcka as a coordinator there. That was a big piece of it; an offensive-minded coach.”

Adams and Sherman have known each other since high school. But, according to author Geoffrey Chaucer familiarity can also breed contempt.

“It’s very interesting. You never know how that part is going to work out on a day-to-day basis,” Adams said. “Surprisingly enough, we don’t see each other as much during the day as you’d think, but having the ability to bounce ideas, to be accountable, have mutual respect. It’s refreshing,” said Adams.

When Adams was made athletic director, he had to leave behind the football team and some unfinished business.

“I felt like for me that we were stumbling across the right direction, I felt like I ran out of time. I think the process moving forward is recruiting and accountability. One thing I know for a fact is that he (Sherman) understands his talent. I feel like we have a really strong foundation here that was already in the locker room from the four years of work we put in,” said Adams.

The timing can be a crucial part.

“I think it’s a matter of time until we start to compete in this region,” said Adams.

First impressions are important when meeting someone new. It might be more important if it’s the person that is taking over.

“Sherman is a passionate professional who wants everyone to understand the little things matter. He is ultra-efficient and ultra-organized. I think he’s bringing a lot of great things to the table that the coaches haven’t thought of,” said Koniezcka.

When bringing in a new head coach, players’ energy or vibes can change. Some leave, and Koniezcka knows what that feeling can be like.

“The kids understand the little things do matter. It’s something that’s been preached. But also, little things like body language–like hands on the head and stuff like that. When guys got tired we’d say hey, take a deep breath and blow it out. Now you’re focused,” he said 

“Iron sharpens iron” and “Never give up” are Panther staples for motivating, but Sherman has a different one.

 “Refocus on focus, refocus on focus, focus on your refocus because the guys have to key in on the little things,” said Koniezcka. 

Spring Ball begins March 14, and Koniezcka is excited for it.

“(With) Sherman being an offensive-minded coach, I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge on things he’s done. It’s a man that’s been in this coaching profession as long as I’ve been alive. For me, it’s about learning. What do you see as a weakness in my scheme? How can I be better,” said Koniezcka.

Wide Receiver Coach Jesse Santiago sees something in Sherman.

“He’s very big on detail as far as knowing our players inside and out,” Santiago said. “He’s very much involved in their lives outside of football, which is something that caught my eye first. He truly cares about each guy in the program.”

Santiago also said that the coaching change may also bring new life to the program.

“Definitely looking forward to just the guys competing,” he said. “With a new head coach, some guys feel like it can be a new breath of fresh air to fight and earn a spot. The energy will be high with new staff members. It’s going to be a competitive spring.”

Coaching changes can also bring about mixed emotions from players. Christian Sorrells, junior, captain, and offensive tackle welcomes the change.

“Honestly, it feels like another challenge and also another opportunity to prove myself as a leader and person,” Sorrells said.

Coaches can be demanding, whether it be urgency or consistency, and Sorrells got a certain vibe from Sherman.

“Coach Sherman is someone that demands excellence from us. He wants us to better ourselves by handling adversity. Overall, Coach Sherman seems like someone that will be good for us players. So far, it seems like there is a sense of urgency from the team,” he said.

The coaches have their goals for the spring, but the team itself has its own goals. 

“The team’s goal for the spring is to meet the standard, which is a part of coach Sherman’s philosophy. Overall, we want to develop the right mentality and hunger to compete in the fall,” said Sorrells.

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