Gearing up for their 2017-2018 varsity football season, Rancho Cotate High School welcomes a new head coach, new team members and a new high-tech practice method, all in an effort to prepare the team for a successful season.
Coach Gehrig Hotaling, a former Rancho Cotate football player himself, is taking up the position of head coach after being assistant coach for several years.
Along with the new position, Hotaling will also be implementing a different and modern take on football practice with the team, using virtual reality as one of the means of getting athletes trained.
“There’s a lot of unique stuff I use,” Hotaling said when asked to describe his new coaching tactics. “We use virtual reality vision and mental training with the quarterbacks… we are the pilot program to be able to do that and it works well. They are able to get back in their own eyes and see what they essentially saw at practice. It’s pretty advanced technology and you see Division I NFL teams doing it.”
Hotaling said while the NFL uses a much more advanced $60,000 system, this method, which he designed himself, works in conjunction with a more standard practice regimen, such as performance breathing (an after practice cool down) and conditioning.
So far for Hotaling the most rewarding aspect about being head coach, is seeing the Rancho pride in the community and having the honor of being a part of it all.
“I want to give it 110 percent all the time because I just have a lot of pride in our school community and I just feel honored to be able to coach at Rancho and above all else, it’s just a great responsibility and I understand that,” Hotaling said.
Danny Smith, a running back coach, said of Coach Hotaling taking the lead position that he’s already doing a good job keeping up with all the new responsibilities and is doing so in a heartfelt and efficient way.
“I think he’s doing a fantastic job. There was no lack of energy from Coach Conroy, but I think this is just a different route of a very structured way that keeps the kids from getting butterflies or getting distracted and in being efficient with the time so the kids can actually be teenagers, so they’re not spending their whole day at practice,” Smith said.
According to Smith, Hotaling has changed the way the team practices and said that “it is pretty impressive.”
“The kids kind of feed off the energy,” Smith said of the distinct team environment the coach brings to the field.
As reported in an article by the Press Democrat, Hotaling originally played soccer, but then decided to switch to football during his time at Rancho. Ever since then, he’s had a true love for the sport.
“Gehrig definitely has a very healthy obsession with football,” Smith said.
However, Hotaling isn’t the only new member to join the Cougar team. About half of the team consists of new athletes, with several returning veterans from junior varsity making the jump to varsity
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who are now entering their junior and senior year at Rancho.
In terms of younger players, there are two sophomores from JV joining varsity, a decision that is made based on an individual’s skill set, according to Hotaling.
Jenny Lopes, whose son Deven is one of only two lower classmen to join the team, will be placed in a tackle position, according to maxpreps.com and is excited to be joining the team.
“He was asked last March to start working out with the varsity team, so that gave him a push and we didn’t really think it was a possibility for him to be on the team. He was so compelled by the coach’s attitude and the other players that he just kept on pushing himself,” Lopes said. “When he finally realized that he made the varsity team, he was really excited… and he’s also very determined too.”
Hotaling said they don’t normally put sophomores on the team unless their skill merits the placement, since they want to give him a chance to play and not just have them placed on the bench.
“Junior varsity had a really good team last year, they had a 9-1 record, so we’re hoping they’ll make a smooth transition to varsity. We don’t like to keep sophomores unless they can play, we don’t want to bring them up and have them sit, so our plan is that they will get playing times and help our team in positive ways,” Hotaling said.
Moving forward, the team’s goals for this season include working on the potential of the team, working towards the championships and being more consistent in both offense and defense.
“Offense was fantastic last year and it’s just (working on) being consistent. Our highs are really high and our lows are really low and if we could just have a standard to play that’s really good at all times — that’s what I expect, and that’s what the team expects out of themselves,” Hotaling said.
Smith also mentioned that the boys have already started working hard towards their goals at practice and said, “The kids have been working their butts off in the off season to try to come into shape.”
The team’s first game will be a home, non-conference game Friday, August 25 at 7:30 p.m. versus the St. Mary’s Panthers.
Hotaling said of all the new advantageous components to the team, “We are going to be a tough team to beat this year.”