Option Central recently became a member of the CompuSports Network of web sites.
CompuSports Staff Writer Jim Reese sat down with Coach Schuster to discuss a variety of topics. In this first part of the interview, Mike talks about the origins of the web site and its evolution from a site with a single focus on The Freeze Option to what would eventually become the web's premiere online collection of Option Football information.
Jim Reese: Mike, tell our readers how you came about to begin Option Central ten years ago. Was it an offense you had coached? Or did you have to defend against it? Or both?
Mike Schuster It was an offense I coached in – I was the wideout coach ( still am actually!) In 1992 I had already been on staff at North Catholic High School for a year and North was pretty down at the time – I think we went 2-8 my first year in 1991 - and the offense was of course a big part of that. So Bernie Colbert got hired as the new OC in 1992 and his base was the freeze Option that Syracuse was running from the Pro-I. We got VERY good at it, and I’ve never seen another high school team run it, ever. Long story short, anyone I talked option football with in the late 90’s wanted to know about what we did, and the website was the easiest way to get people that information
Jim Reese: Were coaches receptive to sharing their information with you for public review?
Mike Schuster Well, initially I wasn’t really planning on being a publisher per se’. Adding material from other coaches was more reactionary to the feedback I was getting from people. There was a genuine attitude of wanting to share what these guys knew about and were doing. So to kind of answer the question, yes - the guys I was dealing with were receptive to sharing their stuff before I really even asked them to, if that makes sense…
Jim Reese: Jim Reese: There were some coaches who initially saw the benefit perhaps more than others and shared immediately your vision for Option Football. Why do you suppose that was?
You mention Bernie Colbert, your original mentor, Joe Sells from Malvern Prep in Philadelphia, Don Herman from Martha’s Vineyard in Oak Bluffs Massachusetts, Mark Snow from East Surry High School in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, Bob Colbert, (Bernie’s brother) who was at the time the offensive coordinator at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater Virginia, Steve Ellison from Petaluma High School in Petaluma California, and Dave Large from El Dorado Springs High School in El Dorado Springs, Missouri, as the six originating coaches who got Option Central up and running.
How much did their contributions confirm your idea that “coaches want to help coaches?”
Mike Schuster The more time you spend in the coaching business, the more you come to realize that communicating and sharing ideas is really the foundation of the game’s development. It’s a truly viral situation. 99.9% of what every coach runs is something that they learned about or developed from someone else.
Like if an alien comes down here and we say “here, take these 11 guys, here are the rules, see what you can come up with…” and give him no other direction or reference… it might be real interesting to see what he comes up with, but chances are that it’s not going to be highly successful. We have the advantage of looking at what other coaches have done and how it’s worked. Things that work well stick and get developed further, and things that don’t work well go away – I think probably every competitive sport is very Darwinian like that and we’re no different.
So in regards to those six guys, I think it’s safe to say that they probably “get” that idea a little more than most and realize that promoting their successful ideas and helping other coaches is really a way to add their own little brick to the foundation of the game. And speaking from personal experience - when you contribute like that, you feel as though you are completing the circle that started from when you were a rookie coach and were basically a walking empty sponge, soaking in every little thing that sounded like it mattered to you.
A final point I might add… is that it’s relatively impossible to be raised in a culture of total generosity and not turn out to be generous yourself. I don’t think it’s natural to the human condition to just “take”… there is something in all men of a good heart that needs to give as well – in my experience, football coaches happen to be a very concentrated group of these types of guys.
In Part II of the Interview, Jim and Mike discuss recent changes to the Option Central web site among other topics.