KEITH MacPHERSON, Sports Editor
Gainesville Daily Register
Gainesville athletic director Eric Johns and football coach Keith Hall know discipline.
From missing practice to cursing — if you break a rule under their watch, you’re going to be running a mile.
The Leopard coaching duo talked about the new structure of discipline and the benefits of it at the Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday.
“For some reason in Gainesville, we get a bad rap,” said Johns, who is in his first year as athletic director after serving nine years as head basketball coach. “Any time I tell someone I’m from Gainesville, I get, ‘Oh, Gainesville.’ It all goes back to lack of discipline in the past with our players and coaches.
“We are going to improve our reputation here bottom line — by the way our coaches act and the way our kids act.”
Johns’ basketball team was the only winning boys team at Gainesville a year ago, despite sharing the same athletes with football and baseball. The Leopard athletic director pointed to discipline as a factor to his team’s success.
“The kids knew that when football season is wrapping up, it’s time to get serious,” Johns said. “Now we want to have that year around from the sixth grade up through high school.”
Discipline and holding kids accountable has been a large part of why the Leopards football team has started out 4-0, Hall said. The Leopards were 2-8 a year ago.
“Our kids are buying in,” Hall said. “Of course winning helps, but they are buying in. They want to be in a structured program. They want the type of discipline that we are bringing to our program.”
The discipline includes running a mile at an allotted time before school for saying a swear word or breaking school policies. The harsher the rule broken, the more miles the athlete has to run. If an athlete has any miles left come gameday, the athlete won’t be allowed to participate.
In addition to rigid rules, the athletic department has put in place a support system for athletes. High school coaches have started to work with junior high athletes on a regular basis and coaches are now focused on making students top notch citizens as much as they are at making them top notch athletes.
“We want to see them graduate high school and become productive citizens,” Johns said. “If they go out into the real world and get a good job, go to college and do things the right way, then we have done our jobs.”
Johns hired Hall during the summer after working with him in Vernon before coming to Gainesville. A big reason for the Leopard athletic director hiring Hall was the similar philosophies.
“We are on the same wave length when it comes to discipline,” Johns said.
Hall has officially been on the job for only a little more than two months but the Leopard coach said he is happy to be here and has seen tremendous growth from his team.
“At our first meeting, I told our players ‘You did not pick me and I understand that,’” Hall said. “’If you had your choice of a head football coach, I might have been the last guy you would have chosen. But what is important to you is that you understand that I chose you. I’m going to do everything I can to see that we win as soon as possible.’”