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An Interview with Coach Elwood Townsend

Coach Elwood Townsend, the Head Football Coach for The Academies at Frederick Douglass High School since 2008, coached the Mighty Ducks to the Baltimore City Division II Championship in 2013. With an overall record in 2013 of 13-1, Coach Townsend and the Mighty Ducks were the 1A State Runner-Up.

Additionally, Coach Townsend is an instrumental member of the Douglass team that assists with the NFL Player Engagement 1st & Goal Program. This initiative focuses on supporting student-athletes with meeting and exceeding academic standards including improving grades (GPA), attendance, and graduation rates.

On developing talent and recognizing intangibles…

  • Leadership! Owning the job you have and making things better and more effective, instead of just showing up daily to practice to do the same thing, is an intangible that will make you stand out.
  • Adaptability! Those players that can adapt the best to personnel changes, team policy and leadership change will be valuable assets to their teammates, as well as the overall student body of the school.
  • Team Player! Working together with people of differing generations, cultures and demographics is a coveted intangible that will become more and more important as your program grows.  It also helps those players in your program to be better prepared for the next level.

On the characteristics of a successful high school football student-athlete…

  • In order to be a successful student-athlete, the athlete must first be willing and dedicated to being the best student possible. This requires one to be a hard worker on and off the field, dedicated to him/herself and the team and someone who is able to communicate effectively, as well as be coachable. I believe that the most successful student-athletes aren’t those that are the best players, but the ones that go above and beyond to make sure all involved are successful. We want someone in our program that never gives up, someone that we know that just because English is not their best subject that they work as hard as they would in their favorite Math class to succeed. It translates onto the playing field…that in crunch time we can all count on them to do their absolute best!

On developing leadership skills in student-athletes…

  • Developing leadership skills within our program is done several ways. First, we separate the team into cohorts, which helps with monitoring overall student achievement and social development. These cohorts are led by our senior athletes. Our leaders are responsible for daily monitoring of their designated team by helping coordinate study hall sessions, coach class, and or any other assignments/activities.
  • We hold weekly meetings attached to our daily film study, where athletes are able to discuss various topics not related to football.  We find that this helps with overall awareness of today’s issues. Furthermore, it helps them become socially, economically, and culturally up to date with their peers.
  • Lastly, we hold daily 5-10 minute meetings between coaches and senior leaders to address questions, and or concerns from the entire program (Varsity and Junior Varsity).

On advice for parents/guardians during their child’s college search process…

  • We hold an annual coaches/parents meeting to provide pertinent information about the college process. We ask that parents stress academics before athletics. Our staff helps them to understand the NCAA clearinghouse process, and the overall recruiting process. We inform them of what they should expect and non-negotiable things when researching their potential college choices. We encourage them to take advantage of the summer college/university combine circuit and to attend the camps that fit the students-athletes skill set, academic focus, and general campus life, rather than wasting their money on overcrowded camps that don’t have the one-on-one feel and focus.

On what every incoming freshman should know as they transition into high school athletics…

  • ACADEMICS! Having the student understand that their 9th grade year is the most important year in the recruiting process, and that it sets the standard on their overall core course performance. Having their priorities in order: focusing on school, family, and football in that order. Being accountable for their mental growth during their time in high school and having them understand that this is not youth sports and that you earn your way onto the playing field. Also, getting them acclimated to the rigorous schedule both academically and athletically.

On how to create a healthy locker room culture…

  • Daily monitoring by a member of the coaching staff. Each personnel group (QB, WR, RB, OL, DL, DB…etc) is responsible for weekly clean-up, and groups that do their part effectively will receive incentives for their cooperation.

On how the student-athlete experience has evolved over the years…

  • With the new age of the internet and social media, the experience for the student-athlete has been far more rewarding and damaging as in recent years. Students can help and/or hurt themselves in the recruiting process with things that are posted to social media outlets. However, having these resources available to them is a big tool, and gives them a clear understanding of the do’s and don’ts. By having former college athletes working on our staff, it helps in our discussion with each student-athlete about recruiting and the overall college experience. We teach our student-athletes our motto: “LEAVE NO DOUBT” in the minds of anyone, and that goes for on the field work, but more importantly off the field. Never give someone a chance to pass you over for something you did or should have done!
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