Editor’s note: This is the first installment of Extra Points, a weekly series of stories that look at high school football away from the Friday night spotlight.
This is football practice, and Kelley Sayahnejad is a football coach, so surely he will raise his voice at some point.
When Sayahnejad, the first-year coach at North, does, it’s not as dramatic as one might expect.
Just a simple “Get on it!” to a player participating in a fumbles drill this week.
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Sayahnejad doesn’t strain his vocal cords often, but when he does it comes in a tone of encouragement.
“An old coach once told me kids are not trying to fail,” Sayahnejad said. “So if you’re yelling at them for failing, maybe it’s your delivery that’s failing, not so much them. It’s always just been better for me to be positive and enthusiastic and just work on teaching.”
Sayahnejad, a player at Friends in the early 2000s, was an assistant at North before spending the last four seasons on the staff at Mulvane.
When he took the job in January, the 30-year-old became the sixth coach at North since 2000. Others have expressed similar enthusiasm and a promise to stick it out through rough seasons only to leave after a year or two.
His history at North means Sayahnejad knows what he’s getting into. The Redskins have gone 7-39 with one playoff appearance since 2004.
“With his positive attitude and being able to work with our kids and knowing our community, it really helped out quite a bit in getting him back here to North,” athletic director Lance Deckinger said.
But the Redskins dropped their opener to East 18-0 on Friday night at Northwest.
The disadvantages at North are apparent. The Redskins were the last team in the City League to have a turf field installed, and since the track around the field isn’t completed, North still spends much of practice on the grass field used for baseball and softball.
On the first day of practice, only about a quarter of the roughly 80 players had completed physicals, so practice was light until North called in a chiropractor to give inexpensive physicals to the remaining players.
Sayahnejad has had several off-field issues to handle in the last eight months, so finally getting to be on the field for his first game as a head coach is the easy part.
“.æ.æ.æI’m here about 7:15 every morning, so I spend a period of time getting the clerical stuff done,” Sayahnejad said. “Once that time period is over, it’s time to move on to the rest of the stuff for the day.”
The rest of the stuff varies depending on the day. Sayahnejad had a coaches meeting on Sunday; he filled his staff with several ex-teammates, so the meetings are a mixture of seriousness and fun.
Video study on Game 1 opponent East is prevalent during the school week. Sayahnejad points out that East’s defensive coordinator, Tyler Ryan, left to coach Wichita Trinity, so last season’s video might be out of date.
During practice, Sayahnejad is mostly all smiles, which seems to work because he has the full attention of his players. His goal is to make sure every player is always active.
“There’s some excitement there and some nervousness,” Sayahnejad said. “Nervous because it’s your first time in that role, but excited because your kids have worked all summer and in the last two weeks, so you want to see how that comes together.”
Sayahnejad is from Oklahoma, and with family still there he would welcome the opportunity to coach there eventually.
For now, though, his goal is to inject energy into a stagnant program. Others have tried and most have failed.
“Whether he leaves in two, three years, 10 years, 15 years,” Deckinger said, “at least we’re expecting it to be in better shape when he does leave.”