By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Steve Hamilton moved from Georgia to become the head coach at Elk River, he decided to re-build the program.

He did so not by going with a pass-happy offense, but instead by running the football out of power formations. That can sound boring and difficult to a newcomer.

“When I came here they were spread the year before and really struggled, so this was an easy sell for me,” Hamilton said. “I honestly told the coaches, ‘We get a first down, they’re going to cheer,’ because they’d scored 67 points I think the whole year before I got here.”

Hamilton says the changes must first start with the coaches.

Coach Steve Hamilton (credit: CBS)

Coach Steve Hamilton (credit: CBS)

“I think the buy-in is first you got to get buy-in from your staff. Everyone’s got to be 100 percent this is who we are and this is what we do,” Hamilton said. “And if you don’t have that, that will filter into the kids.”

They got buy-in, alright, and they are getting wins. They are unbeaten and ranked number one in the state.

“It’s been crazy to be, you know, started out 6 and 0, it’s honestly been a dream of ours,” player Sam Gibas said. “We put in a lot of work this summer, so it’s nice to see it all pay off finally.”

Oh yeah, there was one other element Hamilton implemented.

“We do things called ‘positive 100s,’ where they have to say so many positive comments to each, and then they don’t have to run those 100s,” he said.

Simply put, they want to hear 20 complements from a designated player to his teammates during practice. Each one reduces the number of 100s they run at the end.

“We will subtract one for every positive thing we hear them say to a teammate. But they don’t know who we’re counting that day, so we have somebody that we’re listening to, they don’t know who it is,” Hamilton said.

What is does is bring it together on Friday nights. Believe in each other and tell each other — with some incentive.

“It just brings a lot of positivity in practice instead of being negative and being hard on each other,” player Jalon Nielson said. “It makes sure that everybody’s being positive, picking each other up. Just to grind through practice, you know, it can be a grind, especially in the summer.”

Oh it’s working, and it’s about a process of developing people though a sport they did not know they could enjoy like this.

“It’s that experience of being with a team and being part of something that’s bigger than you. You don’t get that a lot today. You grow up now with these video games, you don’t have to go play with anybody else. You don’t have to leave the house,” Hamilton said. “You try to tell them, ‘You have to be part of a team and be bigger than yourself.’ Just like when you get married and have a family, you got to be a good team member.”

What they have learned is this positive re-enforcement thing has a purpose — one that can carry over into life.

“You know, Einstein said it takes 18 positives for every one negative you hear,” Hamilton said. “When you think about a typical day in high school, how many negative comments you hear. So we just try to be positive and have fun.”

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