Kevin Hammer named the Pilot's 2008 Coach of the Year
Outside of the politics, there are few professions so frequently scrutinized by the general public as that of a head football coach. Every loss is looked at with a magnifying lens and every play call questioned.
Whole towns entrust one man and his collective staff to take awkward, bumbling freshmen and mold them into intelligent, disciplined athletes.
Add in the fact that in Iowa it's not just the high-school that gets into the season, but the whole community rallies around their boys. That's quite a bit of pressure.
The Pilot Tribunes' 2008 pick for coach of the year knows all about the pressure.
"We've been successful the last three years," said Alta's Kevin Hammer. "The town is kind of expecting that now. It puts more pressure on the staff and kids, but it's a wanted pressure. The younger kids see that and want to be a part of it. Our community has really gotten behind us, and they're really excited about football in Alta.
And with good reason.
The Cyclones went 7-3 in 2006. In 2007, they went 7-3 yet again, falling just short of a state berth both seasons.
With the graduation of the 2007 class, Alta had many holes to fill, and with little depth, there was some concerns about what kind of year they would have in 2008.
Hammer and his staff took the numbers they had and pounded out a nine-win season this fall.
"It took a lot of hard work in the offseason," said Hammer. "We dropped a real good senior class, and we knew depth was gonna be a problem. Guys we had going had to be in football shape when the season started. We kept them working all season long. It's a tribute to the type of kids we had to work with Luckily, we stayed away from injuries."
Luck certainly plays a small part in any sporting event, but Hammer and his staff did their best to take as much luck out of the game as possible.
"We spend a lot of time breaking down game film," said Hammer. "We really try to replicate what the other team is trying to do and see where we can attack. We just try to put our kids in the best possible position. You get them lined up in the right position, and hopefully they're gonna make a play."
Hammer's bunch was one of, if not the area's sharpest team week in and week out as they advanced all the way to the Class A quarterfinals before falling to Southern Cal.
Alta had a knack for playing their best ball in the most crucial of situations. An early season district loss to Gehlen put Alta in a hole for a repeat district title, and their season finale loss to Akron-Westfield dug another heading into the playoffs.
Both times Alta responded emphatically.
"We always told our kids, the season is like a roller coaster," said Hammer. "Good teams don't get too high or low after a loss or a big play. The Gehlen loss was a big one. It burst our bubble a bit. We told the kids that the game's over, and you can't dwell. Everyday in practice, you take a step backward, stay the same, or you move forward. Our kids really responded well. They had a dream of getting into the playoffs and they knew they had to improve everyday. After the Akron-Westfield loss, it would have been real easy for the kids to go through the motions against Garrigan. They still had something to prove knew. They were good enough team to make a run at the playoffs. Hats off to those guys."
While the head coaches take the brunt of the blame when things are going wrong, Hammer had no problem sharing the credit after another impressive season in Alta.
"Our guys put in an unbelievable amount of work," he said. "They break down hours of film, and we sit together and talk Sunday nights trying to put together a game plan. I couldn't have had a better group of guys. I'm really blessed with my staff and this community."