By VINNIE PORTELL
It’s easy to forget about all the cogs that go into helping the Venice High football team churn its way to the playoffs year-in and year-out.
Of course, most of the credit goes to the players on the field, but many of them wouldn’t be in the position to succeed without the litany of coaches running up and down the sidelines every Friday night.
It’s plain to see how much each of the Indians’ assistants means to the team just by watching Venice conduct practice. In the beginning, each position group breaks off into their respective units and goes to work with their own respective coach — grinding through the specifics of their roles on the field.
“It’s huge to have these guys,” Venice head coach John Peacock said. “Nowadays you need that, especially playing the schedule we play. We have to be good in every area. Back in the day it was one guy coaching offense and one guy coaching defense. That doesn’t work anymore. I really feel like each kid benefits from having a coach at their specific position.”
All in all, the Indians have 15 coaches — seven of which played college football.
And it’s not just experience that these coaches bring to the table, either. Along with Peacock, coaches Larry Shannon, Mike Bartlett, Tim Weidlein, Sascha Hyer and Clint Calhoun have each been coaching with the Indians for at least eight years.
Since then, former players such as Beckett Wales (Syracuse University Alum) and Clay Burton (University of Florida alum) have been added to the staff as well.
“Based on the example that these coaches set for me when I played for them, you can really impact a kid’s life when you do things the right way and hold them accountable," Burton said. "So I knew there was only one place for me to coach, and that was to come back here and be under the tutelage of these guys in a great program like this.”
The staff works together nearly all year long, whether it be coaching the games during the fall or the conditioning that begins weeks after the season ends. Over the years, the group has become a tight-knit family — communicating daily through a group chat and regular meetings.
During Friday night games, the group stays in contact through headsets and are quick to offer advice and input from what they’re seeing on the field.
“Every coach has his role and responsibility and none of them have to worry about looking over their shoulder,” defensive coordinator Larry Shannon said. “They have a job to do and the freedom to do it. We’re communicating all the time. We’re basically a family. A lot of people say that, but we truly are.
“No one is scared to bring their ideas to the table. There’s input from across the board, and it makes everyone feel a part of the team. It’s not just one man running the show.”
The family of coaches at Venice keeps growing as the success continues.
After adding coaches Dave Butler (offensive line), Jerry McManus (passing game coordinator), Brian Ryals (quarterbacks) and Tyrone Harrell (head equipment manager) in the past few seasons, some new faces have joined the staff in 2019.
Lucias Bonner Jr. has joined the team as the running backs coach after coaching football at area schools such as Cardinal Mooney, Booker and Sarasota High for the past 20+ years. Wade McVay is another addition, named the head of football operations after 35 years of coaching experience and a 30-year career working for the Sarasota Police Department. Josh Hunter is also a new member of the staff, joining as the assistant offensive line coach.
“It’s awesome to have all these guys,” Peacock said of his growing staff of coaches. “There’s no egos out here. They’re out here to make the kids better, and it’s really, really refreshing. A lot of times there will be coaches who worry about their ego or worry about their title and worry about the credit they’re getting.
“We don’t have anyone like that. Our guys are only worried about how these kids are doing.”