The Force’s football season turned around when Coach Paco Martinez learned to embrace tension.
He’s seen teams unravel from internal conflict, but has noticed energy and productivity from Force players when they’re allowed to express themselves more intensely.
Since Martinez’s discovery, following a two-week bye period last month, the Force has won three straight to improve to 6-4 and enter playoff contention. Wichita hosts Centex, a team from Central Texas, at Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday night.
“Earlier in the season, like I always have been in my coaching career, I don’t allow any of that stuff – trash talking or woofing at each other during practice,” Martinez said.
“When we came back from our two weeks of bye weeks, we had some bad attitudes. We had some guys who were ready to hit somebody else, and it flared up a couple times, but it was constructive.”
Martinez let it play out and decided to see where it might lead. A winning streak has followed, perhaps because Force players are wary of drawing the ire of their own teammates or bringing negative attention to themselves during practice.
When quarterback Jake Medlock throws an interception in practice, he might be playfully taunted by the defense. It can work the opposite way if a wide receiver burns a defensive back for a touchdown.
“It’s a positive thing,” Martinez said. “That’s what’s giving us our edge right now, it’s keeping us hungry. As long as they continue to keep it in the right frame, keep everything positive, we’re going to let it go. They’re really challenging each other.”
Martinez hasn’t often needed to address chemistry on the fly, since most of his teams with the Force, and previously the Wild, have been built around long-time teammates. Many core pieces from those teams remain, but the Force has experienced greater roster turnover than in previous seasons.
Martinez went against previous beliefs in allowing his players to hold one another accountable in more colorful ways and has seen his new philosophy evolve into the Force’s best run of the season. Wichita has outscored its last three opponents 161-95.
“It’s been kind of a maturation for me as a coach,” Martinez said. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t like it – we’re about business, let’s focus on this. But I tried something new, tried to grow a little bit as a coach and let this stuff go. …They’ve really taken it and run with it. There are flare-ups in practice, but it’s a good thing.”
Centex at Force
- When: 7 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Intrust Bank Arena
- Records: Centex 0-10, Force 6-4
- Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 97.5-FM