Lake Norman & Mooresville

First-year coach wants to build winning program

Bobby Collins stood in J.V. Washam Elementary's football field last week watching as his players went over his play and signal calling.

The first-year head coach didn't hesitate to interrupt when any of his 60 players seemed to be confused so that he could explain where and what they should be doing on the gridiron.

Summer workouts have been all about the basics for Collins, the first football coach at Hough High, and his Huskies.

The 29-year-old, who comes to the Cornelius school after spending two seasons as Providence Day's defensive coordinator, said he and his 11 assistants have used the summer to teach their players their new playbook so that they'll be ready when the team's inaugural season rolls around.

"Once you teach fundamentals, that allows players to go full speed," said Collins. "Our job is to make those fundamentals like muscle memory; we try to rep it over and over so that the kids will start doing that without even thinking about it."

Collins has also used workouts to get his players - who mostly come from Hopewell and North Meck - to bond while also seeing who develops into leadership roles.

This time is key for the young program as the team only has a short time to get acquainted before the season kicks off Aug. 27 against CMS's other new high school, Rocky River.

Summer's importance is even greater than normal because the team was not allowed to start working out together until last month, when most high school teams do so year-round. But Collins knew that would come along with opening a school.

The Huskies have also had to practice at Washam Elementary because they're not allowed to use their state-of-the-art facilities, including their turf field and weight room, until fall tryouts officially start Aug. 2.

But despite all of this, Collins said that he's had a great experience so far.

"We have a lot of great parents, a lot of great kids that come out every day eager to learn the game of football," he said. "The practice tempo has been pretty fast-paced, but the kids have picked it up."

Collins said he already has high hopes for his Huskies.

"I don't want them to be average. I want them to be great," he said.

Down the road, he hopes Hough will become a football powerhouse.

"I want to build a state championship football program," he said. "I want to turn these boys into men and send some of them off to college."

Collins has already been impressed by how the Huskies played in their two seven-on-seven games - against Garringer and Ardrey Kell - earlier this month.

Collins doesn't want to approach this team as a first-year team because he thinks they could surprise some people.

"The great thing about the sport of football is that it's still 11-on-11," he said. "We want our kids to go out there, play hard and compete and the rest will take care of itself."

For the Huskies to be successful, Collins will have to overcome the team's youth that comes along with not having a senior class, as well as getting former rivals to work alongside each other on the field.

Collins' experience as both a player and a coach could come handy.

Collins graduated from Sumter High (S.C.) before playing collegiately at South Carolina State. Collins also spent a season playing arena football in Laredo, Texas, before beginning his coaching career at West Mecklenburg High in 2004.

Success for this team will not be marked by records. Collins said he wants his team to simply leave everything on the field.

"I just expect this team to show up every Friday night and play hard," said Collins. "I just ask the kids to come out and give me the best they can give me and compete."