INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
MOUNT VERNON — From the stands, it’s hard to see what’s written across it.
Inside the football huddle, however, the words inscribed on the sledgehammer are preached from the coach’s soapbox.
He speaks with profound enthusiasm, the hammer somewhat of a guideline for the speech.
It’s these small symbolic gestures that create a winning team — a team with its eyes focused on a championship.
Each week, the sledgehammer lives a new life. Midway through the week, exceptionally hardworking players are nominated to receive the honor. Many factors go into the decision, “but especially who has the most energy all week,” said senior Tristan Wirfs. Work ethic, leadership, brotherhood, desire and sacrifice are on the coaches’ minds as they look over the week’s candidates.
“The winner eventually goes to the player who best personifies the traits written on the hammer,” said defensive coordinator Matt Haddy.
Once the week’s recipient is announced, the sledgehammer begins its new journey. On Friday nights, it leads the team out onto the field, held by the week’s winner.
“It’s a symbol that I think the players and the team in general will take a lot of pride in,” said Coach Lance Pedersen.
Even as the game wraps up and the team heads home, the hammer’s journey is not yet over. The recipient brings the hammer to every practice of the week until a new player is announced and it is handed over.
The idea came from one of Pedersen’s common sayings. “Be the hammer and not the nail,” implying it’s better to hit someone else than to be hit. After hearing this for a while, Haddy purchased a sledgehammer, painted it and wrote the words “edge,” “brothers” and “1-0.” As a staff, it was decided to be passed out to a deserving team member on a weekly basis.
Senior Jack Cochrane was the first to receive the honor, followed by junior quarterback Drew Adams.
“It gives the team something new to center around and brings us all together,” Adams said.
As last season ended in the state championship game. the team carried their motto “find an edge” from the past year into this fall. This, along with the 1-0 theory, drives the team toward success. No game is more important than the next, but if you go 1-0 for 14 consecutive times, then good things will happen.
Players are encouraged to find an edge that will make them better than they were the day before and better than the teams they may play in future competitions. Huddles break on “brothers” and the team goes on their way either after practice or on to the game ahead of them.
The sledgehammer signifies all of this — and then some.
Although it’s just one small, but heavy, object, the sledgehammer symbolizes much more to the team than the words on it. It’s an incentive to practice harder than before, something for players to take pride in, and a tradition new to Mount Vernon that will hopefully carry on for years to come.