Chris Dawson’s approach to taking over a new football team may seem a bit unconventional.
The first-year Broughton coach has already introduced his new club to concepts that, on the surface, have little to do with the sport. He’s confident, though, that such practices can have an impact on the field.
“We’ve been talking a lot about empathy and love and relationships, things you don’t always hear in football circles,” said Dawson, a former assistant at Gilman High in Baltimore taking over for Billy Lane. “The biggest thing is before we start trying to fix any schematic stuff is just changing the culture here.”
Dawson, a former Capitals quarterback who graduated in 2001, said his first task when he accepted the job in March was to call the seniors from last year’s team and interview them. He found that the players weren’t having fun and that there was a negative culture attached to a football team that had posted three consecutive 1-10 seasons.
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“It’s understandable when you’re losing games,” Dawson said. “The first thing we want to do is change the culture to where the kids are excited about being here, they enjoy the experience, they like their teammates, they want to work hard at getting better.”
A high-quality experience is Dawson’s goal for the Capitals, and he said he has already noticed some success.
Because of Dawson’s roots at Broughton, he’s remained connected to the area and the school’s booster club. Members of his coaching staff include his former teammates and former Capitals coaches who have returned to the sideline.
“We’ve been able to raise a lot of interest in the program, and we’ve been able to raise some revenue through our booster club, because I have so many friends in the area and family in the area,” said Dawson, who threw for 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior year at Broughton.
During the offseason, the Capitals spent time at football and enrichment camps to grow closer. Dawson said he’s seen a consistent 120 players in the opening days of practice and that no one has yet earned their spot.
He said at this point, coming in second to last on the Cap-8 Conference’s preseason coaches poll, the Caps have to focus on the process.
Dawson each day encourages “three commandments” for the players: work hard, have fun and take care of each other.
“It’s a simple concept but a hard thing to do,” he said. “If we can get them to do those things, we’re going to have a great season. That doesn’t mean we’ll win all our games, but we’ll have a really good season.”
Though Dawson has focused on so many off-the-field areas in approaching his new position, he’s done his homework on the Caps.
In his observations from last year’s season, he noticed how many games they were in but couldn’t finish. It was mainly due to a lack of offensive awareness.
What are the biggest changes that need to be made on the field?
Dawson said Broughton was one of the most penalized teams in the Cap-8 last season. He noticed many dead-ball penalties while reviewing film.
To combat what he’s seen, he wants to simplify the offense.
While the Caps feature many solid pieces in skill positions, the quarterback race is still wide open.
What are the challenges in taking over a program with three wins in the last three years?
Coupled with changing the culture, Dawson’s goal is to reverse Broughton’s bad habits “in terms of not understanding what complete commitment or focus or effort is, pointing fingers, just not being a real team where selflessness and putting the team first is the highest priority,” he said. “That’s not unique to Broughton; that’s the hardest thing to do in team sports.”
Lane implemented several programs off the field that Dawson will retain. Dawson has seen a change in the team’s energy during workouts, a good sign for him.
How does Broughton prepare to open conference against the toughest Cap-8 squad in Wake Forest?
It may be Dawson’s first year coaching Broughton, but he’s heard plenty of two-time conference champion Wake Forest. The Caps open their conference season at Wake Forest on Sept. 23.
“I think we’ve gotten in pretty good shape,” Dawson said. “We are going to try to play fast. We’re going to make conditioning sort of a facet in every game.”
Jessika Morgan 919-29-4538, @JessikaMorgan
More on the Capitals
Last year: 1-10 (1-6 Cap-8 4A)
Five-year average: 2-9 (2-5)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
The number: 3 — games Broughton has won in the last three seasons.
Aug. 19 vs. Apex, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Cary, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1# at Eastern Guilford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Cardinal Gibbons, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 BYE
Sept. 23* at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30* vs. Leesville Road, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* at Millbrook, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* vs. Sanderson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* at Wakefield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* at Enloe, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. Heritage, 7 p.m.
*Conference game; #Thursday game