By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Ask veteran Tupelo High School football defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge for some 50 Cent and he’ll likely give you two quarters.
The coach’s knowledge of defense far exceeds his familiarity with pulse-pounding hip hop music – the kind that was blasted over two speakers at the Golden Wave’s spring practice sessions, which finished on Thursday.
First-year Tupelo head coach Trent Hammond and his coaching staff got used to the sounds during their 15 days of work.
The team’s players loved it from the start.
“Coach Aldridge probably doesn’t like it, but I think he’s adjusted to it,” senior strong safety Antonio Clifton said, then smiled. “I think he’s OK with it as long as we’re not off target with our play.”
Hammond, 45, borrowed the idea from Ole Miss and Texas A&M, who play music during practice sessions. The Aggies even hired a DJ to spin tunes this spring.
“You’ve got to work to make it fun for the players,” Hammond said. “You’ve got to compete with everything else out there.
“This is not your ‘shut-up-and-listen’ and ‘no-water’ approach to football practice.”
Tupelo set up two speakers and started pumping up its players with tunes from 50 Cent, Nelly, Chris Brown and others early in the spring. The players remained focused.
Sounds of silence
One day, Hammond silenced the music. “Our practice that day was a lot flatter than the others,” he said.
The next day, he pumped up the volume again and got the response he was seeking from his team.
“It was an all-out attack fest,” Hammond said. “They were wired the whole practice. They were paying attention. It was a totally different practice.”
Clifton says he can sense a change in his teammates when the music’s on.
“You can tell a difference,” he said. “I can feel us coming together as a team. It gets you pumped up to play … on both sides of the ball.”
That’s the response Hammond was looking for from his team.
“The kids are catching on to a new style of play,” he said. “We’ve got some issues to shore up, but I’ve been very pleased, pleased with the commitment from the kids.
“I’ve been pleased with the coaching staff we have put together. We’re working together, junior high and high school. I want it to be one football program – seventh through 12th grade.”
The beat goes on again come August.