Coaches grow through Shrine Bowl experience


CASPER – In the coaching world there are two things they tell their players they can control – attitude and effort.

Lingle-Fort Laramie head coach Brandon Gifford and Torrington High School offensive coordinator Robb Nicolay saw that truly come alive when they visited the Shriner’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah last week as part of the 49th annual Shrine Bowl in Casper.

It was their first experience taking part in the Shrine Bowl week, and it left an impact on them, much like the players as they too got to experience the trip to the hospital.

“They don’t let a little setback hold them back. They keep pushing forward. They are thankful for the opportunities they’ve got,” Nicolay said. “I texted coach (Russell) Stienmetz, and I couldn’t believe the experience. When you go to the hospital, those kids and parents have a lot to complain about, but they didn’t complain once. They are thankful for everything. They have a positive attitude.”

The experience left the coaching duo speechless and humbled, hearing stories from the kids, what they were there for and what they are working towards.

“It was a great week. It was kind of hard to put it into words. The word that comes to mind is humbling,” Gifford said. “Being able to go visit the hospital and meet some of the young kids and patients there receiving treatment and hearing their stories. It brings everything into perspective of why we were playing the game and what an honor it was to be involved in that.”

As far as the game went, it allowed Nicolay, the South’s offensive coordinator, one more opportunity to work with Beau Bivens, Chase Miller and Deagan Keith.

“It’s been a fun ride the last four years with those guys,” he said. “(Bivens) and I are on the same page a lot of times, and the communication in between series where we just bounce ideas off each other.”

The week also allowed the coaches to learn and grow from working with the other top coaches from around the state in an effort to make them better coaches, including Rock Springs head coach Mark Lenhardt, Douglas head coach Jay Rhoades, assistant Rock Springs coach Blain Christensen and Encampment coach Keegan Willford.

“Being able to work with other coaches who have done this a lot longer who have a wealth of knowledge, you learn a lot and soak up as much as you can,” Gifford, the South’s defensive line coach, said.

Everything from the way practices are designed, the terminology, teaching techniques both coaches took away things which will benefit each of their future teams and programs for the years to come.

“It was neat to see the different perspectives of football and how they went about certain things,” Nicolay said. “Being able to take what other people do and mix it with what we do is beneficial. It gives you a different way of looking at things. Sometimes you get in a rut as an offensive play caller and coming up with new ideas. It was one of those things where I went into the Shrine Bowl trying to be a sponge to learn.”

“It’s just a whole bunch of stuff pick up and take, and I can be able to use to help our program,” Gifford said. “It was a great experience. It was an honor to be a part of it.”

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