Lakeside Junior High wrapping football season tonight

By Josh Beavers

Lakeside Junior High will play its final game of the 2021 season this evening. The Warriors are taking on Haynesville in homecoming action.

The Journal caught up with Lakeside Junior High head coach Jeff Stewart to discuss the importance of athletics in a school as well as thoughts on the team in general.

The Journal: Coach, thank you for speaking with us today. I guess the first question would be would you mind telling us a little about yourself. How long have you coached the team?

Coach Stewart: This is my third year as the head junior high football coach. This is my fifth year at Lakeside. The first two years I was an assistant coach with the varsity program.

The Journal: Why do you enjoy coaching?

I enjoy coaching (and teaching) because I am a service-oriented person. I believe certain personality types are drawn to specific professions. Doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. have a need to help people. That’s why they choose to do what they do. I believe teachers fall into this same category. I know I don’t come across to most people as very approachable or “warm,” but make no mistake about it, I love my community and I love the kids at our school. I want to do my part to make our community a better place. I love our students, I love our athletes and I hope by coaching and teaching at Lakeside I am making a positive impact on our South Webster Parish community.

The Journal: Why is it important for young people to play sports?

Coach Stewart: There are so many reasons I believe playing sports is important for young people, but if I could wrap it all up into one thought it would be that participating in sports helps young people develop positive character. Work ethic, integrity, commitment, self-discipline, tenacity, and grit are all characteristics that make a person successful in life and these characteristics are developed in organized competition. I believe sports mimic life. If you are successful in sports, you can make it in life.

The Journal: What are your thoughts on the team this season?

Coach Stewart: We have a lot of positive team qualities. Our guys work hard and understand what we are working toward. Unfortunately at this point, our record does not exactly translate to all the good things we have going on. We have a lot of young football players which means we are subject to make mistakes. We only have four 8th grade starters who played last year. Our veteran starters are doing an awesome job. Brock Case, Bryce Parker, Kameron Lewis, and Noah Redding anchor our team as returning 8th grade starters and all of them will be contributors next year on the varsity football team. However, this means 18 of our starters have either never played football before or only 6th or 7th graders. Our “underclassmen” do a great job, but they are still learning. Our 7th graders didn’t see a lot of playing time last year because we had a substantial group of kids in our 8th grade class (substantial in total numbers and athletic ability). Additionally, we had a limited schedule due to Covid, so this year’s 8th graders did not have the experience they would have otherwise had if it were not for the pandemic. Our sixth graders are our largest group and several of those sixth graders are starting for us. So long story short, we have a lot of young inexperienced players on our team. Our future is bright. I tell the JH Players all the time that JH football is “Varsity Prep.” We focus on discipline, hard work, and commitment. Using that mission statement as our beacon, we are right on track.

The Journal: Are there ways the community can get involved and help?

Coach Stewart: Community Support is imperative. Obviously we need financial support to keep our athletic programs going, and we welcome any monetary support someone is willing to offer, but it’s not just about money. Simple cost effective actions can help. Local businesses can support by painting their windows and letting our football players as well as parents, teachers, administrators and support staff know that their community is behind them. Put a support sign in your yard. If you see a student athlete in their uniform, ask them about their sport, ask them what position they play, tell them you are going to come see them play (and actually do it). Our kids are proud of their school, proud of their sport, and proud to represent their community. Many people think coaches are overgrown kids living vicariously through their athletes and we just concentrate on “playing and winning,” putting other life lessons aside; but I guarantee most coaches are more concerned with the over personal development and wellbeing of their student athletes than whether or not they win or lose a ball game. If we can develop the positive characteristics in our student athletes I mentioned earlier, winning games on the fields and courts, as well as winning in life is a natural by-product. If our community shows interest and supports our efforts, I truly believe our kids will work to live up to expectations. Remember to make a small investment in the children of our community and it will pay dividends to everyone and the well being of our community in the future.

The Journal: Thank you for your time, coach. Is there anything else you’d like to share?