Equipment was handed out on Monday for high school football teams in Jefferson County.
Second-year Fort Atkinson head coach Brady Grayvold spent time in the early afternoon figuring out the combinations to a box of combination locks for gym lockers. He had the list, but the football coaching staff had to figure out how the numbers governing the list corresponded to the codes on the back of the locks.
The coaching staff got it sorted out. The players will have locks. But it’s another one of the subtleties that no new coach considers when looking ahead to a head coaching position.
After an 0-9 opening season with the Blackhawks, Grayvold can appreciate every detail that goes into the preparation and coordination required to win at any level. Grayvold was a defensive backs coach for the 2017 state runner-up Sun Prairie Cardinals.
So, what did Grayvold learn after his first year as a head coach?
“Shoot, that I was the worst head coach in the state of Wisconsin last year,” Grayvold said. “I was brutal. I was absolutely not very good last year.
“If we ask the kids to sit down and reflect on how they’re doing, we have to too. You have to look in the mirror and ask if you did a good job. The answer was no, so now it’s what do I need to improve on. ...
“People could say that, ‘Maybe he’s just a defensive backs coach.’ In Sun Prairie we did our thing (as position coaches), but you don’t know about all the little nuances and little things that come about. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of the stuff that you take for granted when you’re not the head guy.”
Grayvold took over as head coach for Steve Mahoney, the current athletic director at Fort Atkinson High School, in May of 2018. Mahoney said he didn’t put any expectations in front of Grayvold before his first year, but he knew there would be challenges along the way. The biggest thing for Mahoney to emphasize heading into the second year is the talents that Grayvold does possess.
“I think the biggest thing is that he has the knowledge and knows the game, but he learned all of the organizational aspects that go into. There are a lot of things that you have to keep track of and the only real way to understand how that works is to get that first year under your belt.”
Grayvold said the challenge of putting together a coaching staff and hitting the ground running with three weeks until the first off-season practices was significant.
When the Blackhawks start practice on Tuesday, it will be with a completely different approach and a full year to build continuity.
“When you don’t have a relationship with kids, it’s really hard to get on them and hold them accountable and then be able to hug them at the end of the day and know that they understand. I think that’s a big thing, the relationship piece. We’ve been out with them and at other sports to see different elements of it, I think that they know who we have and who is around. I think that trust level is a big thing.”
The coaching staff, which includes Nick Nelson and Andrew Merryfield as members in the district, has the ability to make those connections on a regular basis.
Grayvold and Nelson eat lunch together on an almost daily basis, which means a steady diet of football talk. Those conversations led to the Blackhawks committing to the simplicity of the wing-T offense. To help implement that offense, Grayvold brought in his father, Brad Grayvold, who is a principal at Bonduel High School.
“I really like the staff that they have. They have a lot of youth and energy,” Mahoney said. “They have good camaraderie and that comes with having a full year to work together.
Brady’s dad has been successful and has been a good mentor for Brady, but he’s also great to have around because those other coaches can bounce stuff off of him too.”
Added Brady Grayvold, “We call him the ‘Wing-T liaison,’” the younger Grayvold said. “He comes on Friday nights because he’s a principal in Bonduel. He’s retired from Michigan, but he’s been coaching the Wing-T for 31 years now. This will be 32.”
Grayvold said he expects his dad to spend Friday nights in the press box for the Blackhawks, who start their season on the road Friday, August 23, against Portage.
“He knows the offense,” Grayvold said. “He’s a huge asset. I like having him around. It’s a system he knows inside and out. To be able to have him help us install it and to get all of the little nuances of what we’re trying to do has been huge for us.”
At the very least, his dad is another person who has nearly seen it all.