In this file photo, North Gwinnett head football player addresses his players during a practice.
Bob Sphire is entering his seventh year as head football coach at North Gwinnett. Sphire's team participated in the North Gwinnett National Select 7-on-7 Qualifier at Gary Pirkle Park in Sugar Hill on Thursday and Friday. In between games, Sphire talked to staff writer Brandon Brigman about the tournament, the upcoming season and his summer vacation plans.
BB: North Gwinnett has been hosting this tournament for five years. What makes you want to keep doing it every year?
BS: Well, it's early in June the season is a long ways, but it's really not before we tee it up and kick it off at the Corky Kell. So all of us are really anxious to get started and kick off the summer with some competition. You work against yourself everyday, you can go in the weight room, you can do all of those things to get better. You get a chance to come out here for a couple days and compete against some of these teams. It's a great way to practice against competition.
BB: How important has passing league become in the summer time for high school football?
BS: I think it's huge. It's kind of like asking how important has AAU become to basketball and how important is minor league baseball to major league baseball or whatever. There's probably a lot of analogies you could make. It's become a part of the culture for developing for the season and I think even teams that aren't traditional throw-it-around teams still benefit tremendously from having to defend the passing game and work their coverages.
BB: Is this an opportunity to evaluate your team or other teams as well like Grayson, Central and Shiloh, who were also in the tournament?
BS: It's mostly just about your own team. There's probably a tad bit here and there that you pick up on with a potential opponent. But it's mostly about evaluating your own team and trying to get them better and see where the strengths and weaknesses are.
BB: You're more than two months away from the season opener on Aug. 25 against Colquitt County in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. Is it too early to start thinking about that game?
BS: No, never. The minute we probably found out we were playing them, they are obviously in the back of your mind. We haven't done a lot scripting to them, but you know you do put it out there. You work a little more video periodically, you talk about some things with opponents that have some success with them.
BB: The state is going to six classifications next year in high school sports. Does that change anything for you and North Gwinnett?
BS: I was kind of surprised. It looks like we have more teams than we had in AAAAA now that it's AAAAAA. I'm not really sure how that works. I'm sure the bottom end was loaded the way it was before and I guess that was probably the major need to reconfigure some of that on the bottom end. We have one more region game than when we were AAAAA, so that didn't really have a lot of impact. It's the same region, plus now Habersham Central.
BB: You had a lot of turnover with the coaching staff this spring. How is the team adjusting to that?
BS: The kids have been really resilient and even getting through spring practice was a major chore. But they've kept working and they've had a great attitude.
BB: Your son Hayden will be on the varsity this year and could see some action in games. What's it been like coaching him?
BS: It's been fine. He's a pretty laid back young man. He kind of just goes about his business. The beauty of having Scotty Hosch last year was they were good buddies and they went to a lot of individual workouts together. Of course every opportunity I had for him to shadow Scotty I encouraged the heck out of. Scotty is moving off to Harvard pretty soon and Hayden will kind of be alone from that, but it's been fun. I treat him like any other kid, coach him the same way and expect the same things out of him.
BB: Any non-football summer plans for you?
BS: Yeah, actually my wife (Marian) and I are going to take a cruise the last week in June. It's the first time since our honeymoon. It's kind of like I told her this spring we just need to get away for a few days and we connected. She's been awesome. I'm looking forward to it and I'm doing it with some of my buddies. One of which is a coach at Centennial. He was my defensive coordinator in Kentucky for nine years. Two guys from my wedding, one of which I grew up across the street from him. So we're really looking forward to that.