'You don't really sleep during the playoffs': Coaching staffs do it all to keep season alive

Lake Zurich football coach Ron Planz, speaking for peers everywhere, addressed how much time he spends not only on X's and O's, but on everything football.

“A lot,” he said.

It's a rough but accurate estimate, especially while preparing for a Saturday Class 6A semifinal, as Planz and his staff are against Cary-Grove.

Who has time to calculate hours devoted to the sport?

Shane Williams gives it a shot. Lake Zurich's defensive backs coach and a special teams coordinator, he has been a Bears assistant coach since 1999.

Williams said he spends up to 30 hours a week on football outside of practice during the season. It ramps up after Week 9.

“During the playoffs, obviously, you spend most all day Saturday and most all day Sunday working on that stuff. You don't really sleep during the playoffs,” he said.

Coverages, tendencies, formations, meetings, working the Hudl program like a savant.

“The second season, we all of a sudden transition to seven days a week. We know that's what it takes. And our families, luckily, know what it takes,” said tight ends coach Aaron Towne.

When the season ends the work continues.

“We all wear a lot of different hats. I track the whole off-season program, that's one of my jobs,” said Williams, who also assembles players' “spirit packs.”

When Planz — out of Fenton High School, Class of 1997 — got hired in 2019 after coaching five years at Elmhurst College, he inherited a staff stocked with program veterans.

Towne, Williams, Jeff Bartlett (linebackers) and Nate Boekholder (running backs) have been on staff more than 15 years.

Rick Erickson (defensive line), Alec Malachowski (receivers) and Nick Summers, defensive coordinator and associate head coach, all had played for the Bears.

The staff also includes Chris Barberis, Jon Hadnott, Owen Lawlor, Matt VanAcker and Pat Walters, and it's not like these guys were starting from scratch. The Bears had five title-game appearances before Planz was hired, as recently as 2017.

“That's a unique deal coming in as a head coach. You have to balance your philosophies and your beliefs with established tradition,” said Planz, who makes in-home visits to Bears players considering college football, since he's been there.

“We have a staff that's all based on doing what's best for the kids and just finding a way to win. And Ron came in with that same philosophy,” Williams said.

It's a philosophy of all for one. Everyone has duties. VanAcker fixes helmets. Bartlett handles game film. Towne is strength and conditioning guru. He looks it.

“I am a guy who practices what he preaches,” Towne said.

Summers, a 2005 graduate and defensive coordinator since 2017, defines his role differently.

“My role is the emotional leader, it's the relationship builder,” he said. “It's to make sure that I know everything about my guys in this program so that when we have difficult conversations or we need to coach hard or we need to get points across they know it's from a place of love, respect, because I've been there in the weight room, in the classroom, private conversations, day in and day out so they know they have that level of trust.

“That's high school sports. It's relationship-building, it's trust building, and that's it in a nutshell.”

John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.comHead coach Ron Planz, front row middle in blue jersey, and the Lake Zurich football coaches pose on the feld.
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