What are the factors that go into creating a top-tier high school baseball program from a newly opened school in under five years? Clear Springs High School (just outside Houston) opened in 2007 and the school moved to varsity level with its junior class in 2009. Since their first playoff run in 2011, the Chargers baseball team has only missed the playoffs once.
Head coach Chris Floyd has led the Clear Springs baseball program since the school’s inception. The team started with just freshmen and sophomores, and played sub-varsity competition the first year. With the first clear springs class of four-year seniors in 2011, the team advanced to the regional quarterfinals.
“It’s interesting to start from scratch,” Floyd says. “As coaches, we took successful pieces from other programs we were with and tried to figure out how it would work with a different dynamic of kids.
“The biggest key to our success is having a coaching staff that has been together for 10 years now,” he says. “In no way is this a one-man show. I have former head coaches as assistant coaches, and that’s a huge plus.”
THE ROUND ROCK CHALLENGE
One of the developments was the unique offseason program that eventually became known as the round rock challenge. The team plays through the spring and players move to elite and select, then play July through September.
“When the players come back to school in the fall, we lift and begin rebuilding the body from the first day of school through thanksgiving,” Floyd says. After thanksgiving break, the team begins the Round Rock Challenge.
Events are determined for each day over the subsequent 3-4 weeks and include tire-flipping relays, weight room challenges, sprints and distance races, obstacle courses, and a talent show. The 36 players in the baseball program vote on four captains, and the captains “draft” the players they think will best benefit the team based on the upcoming events. Individual times become part of each team’s overall score, and teams and individuals with the best scores are recognized.
“We try to get them comfortable at being uncomfortable,” Floyd says. “When you get to the playoffs and you’re facing the best of the best, you’re going to run into a lot of uncomfortable situations. We’re teaching them how to compete and how to be a good teammate.”
“The challenge can be easier or harder for each kid, and the competition by design doesn’t focus on baseball skills,” Floyd says. “Captains have to draft kids who are strong in different areas, so they have to be able to envision what each teammate’s skill set is. It gives them a taste of what it’s like to be a coach and how to rely on teammates.”
The challenge also helps identify leaders, Floyd says. “They have to learn how to communicate with each other, how to plan, and how to help coach one another,” he says. “There are a lot of lessons outside of training to be bigger, faster, and stronger.”
WISDOM FOR YOUNG COACHES
“Coaches have to be in it for the kids,” Floyd says. “Helping kids develop into the best people they can be needs to be the focus of any coach. As a coaching staff, we focus on preparing these players for life after high school to be a good father, a good husband, a responsible citizen. I believe winning will take care of itself if this is our focus. Winning a state championship is always a goal, but what good is that goal if you aren’t developing young men? If you’re just pursuing a championship to pad your resume, the kids will see right through that. They want to know you care first.”
One change over the past 10 years is that almost every athlete has a personal coach outside of school. “We’ve tried to find people who have similar coaching philosophies as we do, and point parents and kids in the right direction if they ask for a recommendation,” Floyd says. “For us, it’s a way to connect them with someone who preaches what we preach. And we do remind them personal coaches are not free.”
Every offseason, Floyd sets up a time to take his staff to visit with a college coaching staff. They’ve visited the University of Houston Texas, Texas A&M, Sam Houston State, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL). “We pick their brains, ask them about their experiences and apply what we learn to our program,” Floyd says. “We don’t need to see them taking batting practice or fielding grounders. We’re interested in how they coach and communicate with their kids. One year, coach Tony Robichaux at ULL, who passed away in July, spent three hours talking with us on character development. That has had a huge impact on our program. If you’re a young coach out there, read the tributes from coach Robichaux’s players. They all talk about how he has impacted them as men.”