The Pulaski football team is going to do its talking on the field this season.
That’s because the players won’t be allowed to talk to the media after games or during the year.
First-year coach Jed Kennedy, who arrived at Pulaski after leading Kenosha Bradford to the WIAA Division 1 state championship in 2011, never let his Bradford players speak to the media. He isn’t about to change the rules for his new guys.
What Kennedy does works, and even if it didn’t, he doesn’t seem to be a man who cares what anyone thinks.
He doesn’t come off as arrogant, just more that he believes in what he does and won’t apologize for it. He seemed to be a hit in Kenosha, where parents and players respected and liked him.
“I’m a team guy,” Kennedy said. “The big thing we have sold is that there is no coach more important than an individual kid. There is no kid more important than another kid.
“I think our society has become a ‘me’ society. I think the football teams that are good every year buy into the team thing. Not just by words, but the things they do.”
Kennedy said parents and players at Bradford loved the policy, which he took from Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda. They understood why he did it, as did the administration. The media didn’t like it as much, but it’s not Kennedy’s job to care.
Is it a good policy? It’s tough to argue with the results.
Although it’s worth wondering if by not allowing players to talk, it’s taking away a very small part of their high school athletic experience.
Does answering questions from the media help a teenager develop social skills or make him or her more comfortable for their first real job interview a few years from now? Does it give their parents and grandparents something to put in the scrapbook? Does it deprive some players who never will play past high school a chance to feel like a star for one day?
Does any of that even matter?
“It’s all on how we sell it as a football program,” said Kennedy, who does not have a policy about players using Twitter or posting on Facebook. “It’s my job as a head coach. If I do a good job of selling it, it won’t be an issue. For every one or two kids talking to the paper, there is 48 who aren’t. It’s tough to sell a team-win or a team-loss, but yet you are putting that one kid up there.
“We will continue to do it until it doesn’t work, I guess.”
Kennedy’s resumé suggests he should be able to do most anything he wants. He won 54 games in five years at Bradford and capped it by being named the state coach of the year last season after the state title win. He also has had 27 players go on to play at the collegiate level during his head-coaching career that started in 2005, when he was hired at Decatur MacArthur High School in Illinois.
His track record indicates he will mold Pulaski into a consistent winner, even if he doesn’t have as many college prospects to work with anymore.
Kennedy is bringing the wishbone offense with him to Pulaski, which should suit the skill set of first-year quarterback Logan Szymanski well.
But it’s really going to be the defense that determines how good the Red Raiders are early on. Kennedy helped build a good defense at Bradford, one that blanked Wisconsin Rapids in the state title game.
He has put a lot of his best Pulaski athletes on that side of the ball. The Red Raiders didn’t allow a ton of points in most games last season, but they couldn’t stop the best teams from scoring — allowing 40 points to Manitowoc in the regular season and 49 to Cedarburg in a playoff game.
Nobody can be sure what will happen in Kennedy’s first year, but they can be certain he will do everything he can to make his new team just as good as his old one.
“There are too many unknowns to say that we are going for six wins, four wins,” Kennedy said. “I can tell you right now that everything we do as a program is to compete for a state championship. Are we there right now? Probably not.
“But that’s what our goals are. That’s what we are preparing for. The kids are doing a great job of buying into that mentality.”