ORANGE PARK – A quick conversation last week with St. Johns Country Day School’s newest head football coach, Derek Chipoletti, revealed a soft smile and a psuedo-wink of the eye that looked like …
ORANGE PARK – A quick conversation last week with St. Johns Country Day School’s newest head football coach, Derek Chipoletti, revealed a soft smile and a psuedo-wink of the eye that looked like the crafty field general had a rabbit tucked up under his sleeve for the 2018 Spartan football program.
“What do you think?” said Chipoletti, asking Clay Today Sports Editor Randy Lefko his opinion on the practice session going on in front of him on day two. “These kids are great learners and hard workers. There is some potential to be a decent football club.”
Chipoletti, hard-driving from his district title years at Fleming Island, Williston, Bradford County and Oakleaf high schools in the past decade or so, noted that his coaching at St. Johns has involved a little bit of toughness and a lot of teaching.
“Me getting loud with them or putting a little pressure on them is not intended to scare them, but if they are scared of me and they know I’m not going to touch them or hurt them, then they won’t be ready for a guy on another team that is there to intimidate and smash them,” said Chipoletti. “Plus, I hear this field fills up on Friday night and playing in front of a big crowd can be intimidating.”
Chipoletti’s incoming resume, said Chipoletti, has not been a major topic of conversation on the practice field or even in the locker room.
“I think one or two know who I am and where I have coached, but I really think no matter who is up there, these kids want to learn to play better football,” said Chipoletti, who left Oakleaf High in 2013 with a 10-0 regular season and two playoff wins before a 35-0 loss to Niceville in the region 1-7A final. “We are starting from the ground floor, but, they are willing to be coachable and I love this situation. It’s a lot better than getting a team that went 10-0 last year.”
One aspect of Chipoletti’s coaching style is to broaden the football teaching to an aspect of life coach.
“I’m just a high school football coach helping kids to become men,” said Chipoletti, who was visited on the field from his parents, including coach Neal Chipoletti, who was head coach at Fleming Island with Derek his assistant that got the Golden Eagles to a classic region 5A final game against powerhouse Lakeland High School in 2009. “The athletes are good kids and they see success everyday with the other sports here at St. Johns. They want to win.”
One minor obstacle that Chipoletti has encountered is a sense of urgency among his players who have undertaken to be forcefed big time football for the first time.
“That sense of urgency to make every play count in practice and, hopefully, when games start is something I see wants to improve,” said Chipoletti, who harped at practice the finite 60 or so number of plays in a typical football game. “Once we get that urgency in getting out of their stance and getting downfield then things will move quicker.”