Lowery has La Porte focusing on the moment
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Growing up in Texas, Jeremy Lowery recollects an old ranch hand phrase that actually applies to uncertain status of high school football.
"Don't worry about the blind horse; just load the wagon," the La Porte coach said.
It's a folksy, western way to convey a message of staying in the moment and not being fazed by what you can't control.
"Our approach is, we have today," Lowery said. "Don't blink. It doesn't last forever. The first week of July, when we met with them on Zoom, we talked how your mind can go places if you get too thinking too far ahead. You can't let it seep in. We told them to worry about today. This is day five, we're able to get together and talk football, we'll enjoy our time and get better. On our sixth day, we'll worry about our sixth day. We're literally going to enjoy each day and give it everything we've got."
It's a stiff challenge to stay positive amid the seemingly endless cycle of negative news related to the COVID-19. Case numbers are spiking in many places and when word comes out that schools like Portage and North Central have suspended athletics, it's easy to think it's only a matter of time. Even as upbeat as Lowery is by nature, he has to try hard on occasion to keep his spirits high.
"We can't let the negatives come back and overtake all the other stuff," he said. "Personally, I have to try not to rush myself. Going back to last year, thinking about all the adversity, the obstacles we went through, how many times we changed practice plans. Now we've got tomorrow's practice plan. The coaches have done a great job with it, the kids have done a great job with it. We're literally enjoying each day, giving it everything we've got. Nobody's called to tell us we can't have practice, so we're going to get after it."
La Porte went 3-8 in Lowery's first season, rallying from an 0-4 start to compete well in six of its last seven games, including a sectional win over rival Michigan City. After the virus-related constraints of the spring and summer, players returned July 6 eager to get rolling again.
"I do know the kids are excited, the coaches are excited," Lowery said. "It's good to see smiles on their faces. We're going at 7 a.m. and we have outstanding numbers, high energy, great attitudes. We've put five days of real positive work in. It tells you that with all the paperwork the parents had to do, they were ready, too. In the simplest terms, we've just got to get back. The kids need the structure, the environment. A lot of things are affected (by not playing). Crime, drugs, mental health. You're opening a whole lot of cans of worms. We've got to move forward. We can't let the negatives overtake all the other stuff."
In the short period of time, Lowery already likes what he sees.
"It's year two of the process. We're happy where we're at," he said. "We're way better now than we were a year ago. The kids understand what we want, the attitude, the effort, the tempo we work at. We're in such a different place than this time last year."
Will they get the chance to see how it translates in games? That's the million dollar question.
"I'm going to cross my fingers," Lowery said.
Contingency plans have been floated across the country. New Jersey has moved what will be a shortened season back to October. New Mexico already has switched football to the spring. A proposal to do the same in Ohio will not go before its athletic association. Nothing in Indiana has gone beyond the rumor phase though one local conference, the Greater South Shore, has discussed the possibility of a truncated schedule that would only include league game.
"It's cool that people are thinking, looking outside the box," Lowery said. "It's an interesting thought, more to think about, but the first thing that came to mind was, how are they ever going to flip it back down the road, turn it around from playing in spring to playing in the fall with only the summer to lead up to it as far as preparation? I think we can survive with baseball -- it's a cut sport -- but what about the track programs? We share numbers."
The greatest concern with the potential loss of a football season at a departmental level is financial. It and boys basketball are the top money-makers in athletic programs that have those sports.
"We have to have football for other sports to survive," Lowery said. "Football supports a lot of other programs. That's why football without fans doesn't work either."
La Porte football coach Jeremy Lowery has his
team focusing on the moment as it prepares
for a season fraught with uncertainty.
(Photo by Robb Quinn)