Q&A: Banning Lewis football coach Nic Olney on starting a program from scratch

Nic Olney

(Photo courtesy of Nic Olney)

Nic Olney is up for his latest challenge as a football coach. He led St. Mary's to the playoffs in 2014 then served on staff at Liberty in 2015 before taking the head job at Widefield.

He coached the Gladiators for three years before stepping away. But now he's found his new home as he's been hired as the first football coach at Banning Lewis. His new challenge is building a program from the ground up, something he has always wanted to take on.

This challenge, however, is unique. In an uncertain time, he has to navigate his way through a spring and offseason clamped down with limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he won't be deterred. He's using the avenues he can to keep his kids in shape and get them education on how he expects them to play.

The off-field stuff that comes with building a new program?

That's the part he's looking most forward to.

Question: What was the main appeal in taking on a program coming into its infancy?

Olney: Just that. Starting out, I consulted with a lot of my coaching mentors and buddies and them what would it be like to do this? A lot of them just kept saying the same thing. Go do it. You're going to do a good job at it. And it's one of those things where you get to do everything. You get to pick the jerseys, you get to pick the helmets you get to go through and help, everything from, we don't really have a home stadium, so help make the home stadium work and really just start everything from scratch. So that was definitely the biggest thing for me.

Q: How much motivation do you have to have from beyond just an X's and O's football standpoint to really embrace that kind of challenge?

Olney: I have a strong, strong passion for coaching and seeing kids succeed. So I think that the motivation is just naturally there. Anybody that can do what they love and have a passion to do. Seeing kids succeed and coaching high school football, there was no need for the motivation. It was already there.

Q: What did you miss the most about coaching since you had stepped down at Widefield?

Olney: The kids. I stepped out of teaching this year too and it's hands down the kids. Scoring touchdowns and winning football games are great, but, I missed working with the kids and the relationships that you build with the kids, the parents, the administrators, the other coaches.

Q: You've coached both small school football and medium to big sized school football. What challenges that you've learned from, from each aspect of that is going to help you not just get this program off the ground, but grow the program into one that you were hoping is going to be successful?

Olney: I think with being a smaller school, it causes for a lot less kids, which usually causes a lot less problems on and off the field. But the biggest thing is if you're at a Widefield, you know, anytime you face a Pine Creek, you're going to see 15 different formations and three different types of defenses. Whereas at the 1A level where we're starting out, I don't plan on seeing that. I'm thinking that things are going to be a lot less complex. A Cover-3 teams is going to run a Cover-3 most of the game. They might trick us up here a little bit and run some Cover-2. But for the most part, you know, what you see is what you get.

Q: This isn't an ideal time to take a new job as a football coach...

Olney: Yeah, definitely.

Q: What are the challenges you're seeing given the current global situation and how are you navigating yourself through all that?

Olney: Well, you're exactly right. I didn't really think of it until now, but the biggest issue is hands down, not being able to work with the kids. Football is truly a year-round sport, no matter what level that you're at. And not being able to work with the kids and see the kids right now is definitely a killer. Not being able to get in the weight room, but the main thing is not being able to install our culture, which we want to build there, and all the offseason stuff just as well as introducing the offense and introducing the defense and what kind of special teams we're going to run.

Up until CHSAA sent out that email recently, I was really just sitting around twiddling my thumbs when it comes to it because it couldn't have contact with the kids. We couldn't be in the building or anything. So I haven't been able to do a whole lot to be honest with you. So that kind of puts us way behind the 8-ball for sure.

Q: Are you able to get on and video conference with the kids and give them some general workout ideas, film to study, anything that can potentially keep them as much up to date as you can with the limitations?

Olney: I was able to get with the kids for about two and a half weeks after I got hired on, before we got put on hold. I left them with a couple of things. We need to make sure that we're staying active and working out as best we can because at that point we didn't know that we couldn't get into weight rooms either. The kids that have been working out with us that weren't engaging in spring sports, and even those that were, we gave them their offseason workouts. I'm lucky to have a great strength coach on staff and we left them with that. As far as the Zoom meetings, we're going to start the Zoom meetings next week, the week of May 11th, to start, introducing what we're going to run on offense and defense and so on.

Q: How much of this Banning Lewis football team is going to have the Nic Olney stamp or are you approaching this build as identifying things program on establishing an identity for Banning Lewis?

Olney: This is definitely going to be an us thing. I'm definitely a transformational coach, I like to get a lot of players involved in this stuff. That's what's cool about this. What's been cool about starting a brand new program is nothing's in place. There's are traditions. There's no specific way that we warm up or anything like that. So being able to start everything from scratch and establish traditions and how we do things is definitely going to be a big thing. Letting the kids decide what we do. It's my job to guide and be the role model and be the leader. But at the same time, I let the kids decide what we're going to do.