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Prep football: New WHS coach Lais excited about next season

By Adam Wattsawatts@dglobe.com Winning football is played by players who care about each other. That is what new Worthington High School head football coach Gene Lais told his future players at a team meeting after accepting his new job. "Of all ...

By Adam Watts
awatts@dglobe.com  

Winning football is played by players who care about each other.

That is what new Worthington High School head football coach Gene Lais told his future players at a team meeting after accepting his new job.

“Of all the teams I have coached on, the ones that have been most successful are not the ones that had the most talent, they are the ones that care about each other,” said Lais, who has lived in Worthington every year of his life except the two years he spent playing football at Minnesota State-Mankato. “When you care more about the person next to you more than you care about your own success, that’s when you’ll be something special.”

The 25-year offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Minnesota West wants to bring a family atmosphere to the Trojans, similar to the one he felt the Bluejays had. He said he wants to make sure his players build relationships with each other and don’t just go to practice and put on a jersey and then go their separate ways.

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“When I was at the college with coach (Jeff) Linder and coach (Scott) Barber, we didn’t talk about it being a team, we talked about it being a family,” Lais said. “I want to install that here, too, to have a family atmosphere.”

He believes that when the players want to play for their teammates, they elevate their level of play beyond their talent. He wants to make sure there is a good attitude and effort from his players and emphasizes knowing their assignments.

If everybody on the team puts forth the best effort and knows their assignments, he said, they can win most of the one-on-one matchups. And the team that wins the most one-on-ones usually wins the game.

“I’ve coached on some teams with a lot of talent where the win-loss record wasn’t very good,” said Lais, who was an offensive lineman for the Trojans, the Bluejays and at Minnesota State-Mankato. “And I’ve coached on some teams where you look at our talent and you say, ‘You wouldn’t be competitive in a YMCA league,’ and we ended up being really successful.”

The former lineman and line coach applies his offensive lineman’s mentality to his coaching. He says as an o-lineman he never cared about getting the credit for big plays and was always happy when the team found success. He wants to instill that sort of team-first mindset into his players.

“I never touched the ball,” he said. “Had my hand in the dirt my whole life. When something went wrong it was, ‘You need to block better,’ and when something went well it was, ‘The quarterback is so great.’ As an o-lineman you never cared about getting the credit. That’s the philosophy I want to bring to the team.”

As a lifelong resident of Worthington who grew up cheering for the Trojans as a kid, he is excited to take the reins as head coach in Year One since veteran coach Brad Grimmius announced his retirement at the end of the 2015 campaign.

“The Trojans mean something to you,” he said. “Growing up as a little kid, being a Trojan fan, dreaming of playing on Trojan field -- it’s an important thing to me. The Trojans are valuable and important in my life.”

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As much as he is looking forward to coaching Worthington High School, his transition from coaching at Minnesota West to coaching the Trojans is bittersweet. He said he never thought he would leave Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder’s staff and certainly never imagined himself as a head coach.

He said other high school coaching job opportunities have come up in the past, but this is the only one he even considered. He didn’t want to leave his friend and former teammate.

“Coach Linder and I have been friends forever,” Lais said. “We played together at the college, we coached together. We always said we’re a package. When we’re done, we’re done. So one of the hardest things was leaving the college and leaving him.”

The Trojans football team has a four-day summer training camp from July 18-21 where they will install the basic offensive and defensive schemes. They then have fall camp August 15 before opening the season on Sept. 2 on Trojan Field against Luverne.

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