Appalachian State football this offseason will lose 18 senior members, 11 of which were a part of the starting lineup last year.
That means there are a lot of question marks on nearly every level of the offense and defense, including that of starting quarterback with the departure of all-time App State touchdown leader, Taylor Lamb.
Players who are freshman or have rarely touched the field during game
situations could be expected to fill roles previously occupied by record holders and team
captains this 2018 season.
But how can they possibly make such a huge transition mentally and physically so quickly?
“New kids are thrown in with the wolves” says Jon Mitchell, Director of Athletic Training
Services for Appalachian State athletics.
Mitchell believes that student athletes, physically, are generally accustomed to the rigorous
work ethic that it takes to succeed in college sports because of the effort they put in just to get
to that point. He understands that the key is actually to educate young players on how to keep
that durability sustained.
“The best recovery advice,” Mitchell concludes “Sleep.”
Sleep is not always easy to achieve, however, for a busy student athlete managing school,
sports, and a personal life.
A soon-to- be sophomore wide receiver for the Mountaineers, Thomas Hennigan, said the most
difficult part of transitioning into college athletics was nothing on the field, but rather, time
management. He describes this as “how to handle going to class, coming to practice, then
making sure you get enough sleep and eat the right things.”
Appalachian State has identified this struggle for student athletes and has implemented
counters for this more mental transitional impact as well.
Director of Student-Athlete Development, Pierre Banks, claims that there are a wide variety of on-campus resources, such as the counseling center, that athletes are encouraged to use. He also detailed a new program established for player development called “Habittudes.”
Habittudes is a system where athletes attend classes which use “videos, imagery, and
interactive learning” to improve their leadership on and off the field. The main tool that this
program provides is underclassman on the team are partnered with an upperclassman on the
team who then becomes a mentor for them until they eventually receive their own player to
mentor when they are adjusted to a life of college athletics.
Banks believes anyone can optimize the program of Habittudes, “If you are just willing to
humble yourself and soak up the knowledge from those who have been through it.”
Thomas Hennigan is one such player who has embodied this mindset and had success.
Hennigan was second in touchdown receptions for the Mountaineers as a freshman last year
and tied App State’s single game record for touchdown catches with four in the final regular
“Come in with an open mind and do your best at whatever they (coaches) ask you to do.”
Hennigan says this is a major factor of his early achievements. When it comes to putting all of these transitional pieces together, physical and mental, leadership becomes a very important aspect as well. Thomas Hennigan explained the team’s way of establishing that using something called “ten strong.”
Ten strong is a system where the team is broken up into ten position groups, each with at least one or multiple position coaches. Each coach or group of coaches decides on one player from that group who embodies leadership among the unit. These ten players become the heart of the team and, thus, form ten strong.
The bottom line is, players in college sports come and go every year and Appalachian State
since joining division I football has an overall record of 37-14, a bowl record of 3-0, and has won
two conference championships. The system for player development at this university has
proven stellar over time and as spring training is underway, the future of the program is already
carefully being constructed.