There is an adage in high school sports that athletes roaming the halls and not participating in a sport is an untapped resource. So, when Ryan Pattison accepted the job as head football coach at Oak Lawn Community High School this year, he knew he wanted to get the most out of what the school had to offer. So, he used his role as junior varsity basketball coach to recruit explosive hoopsters for the gridiron.
“I am the JV basketball coach and I built relationships with the players throughout the summer,” Pattison said. “Our football program prides itself on having multi-sport athletes. We think competition in general is going to help us on the football field.
“The basketball athletes joining the football program adds athleticism that makes the team very hard to game plan for on Friday nights. The wrestling athletes who play football also bring their own contributions when it comes to physicality and understanding body control. We have multiple other players who play other sports, and I believe that is one reason why we compete on Friday nights. We have a group of young men and women who want to win football games.”
For many of these multi-sport athletes at Oak Lawn, it is there first year of playing varsity football. However, the Spartans are currently 2-2 on the season, and these versatile athletes are a big reason why. One of the basketball players Gabe Duer has emerged as a leader under center, and he is joined by fellow hoopers and two-way football players Eduardo Chiquito, Davion Lawrence along with running back Nicco Reyes. Gavin Butler, a guard on the basketball team, has explosive speed out of the backfield. Evan Zambrano is another force to be reckoned with, and baseball player Jack McGlynn plays violently on defense.
Coaches from other sports like the approach Pattison is taking with the football program.
“I think it is a positive for the football program, but it is also a benefit for the baseball program because these kids are going to be getting stronger for the spring,” said head baseball coach Bill Gerny. “Currently in high school athletics, a lot of people are pushing students to focus on one sport. I don’t think it helps the athlete or the school as a whole to do that. I like what we are doing.”
Despite the added risk of injury because of playing a violent sport like football, the positives seem to outweigh the possible negatives.
Head basketball coach Jason Rhodes agrees, “It’s great to see our guys on the gridiron on Friday nights contributing positively to the football program and the school’s culture,” he said. “They seem to be having fun competing and making some memories with their teammates, which is what the high school experience is all about.”
For Pattison, who coached for eight years at Morton High School along with other stops along the way, is not just here to develop the football program, but he wants to help the student-athletes grow in all facets of life. He is trying to build a culture of men on the playing field and in the classroom.
“I love the South Side vibe of the Oak Lawn community,” Pattison said. “I believe administration and I are on the exact same page when it comes to serving student-athletes. I believe OLCHS can have a competitive football program year in and year out while helping student-athletes grow holistically as people as they mature through the program.”
This attitude certainly gives the football program an electric atmosphere on Friday nights. The Spartans will battle crosstown rival Richards this week at home and the Oak Lawn Community High School Homecoming game is the following week.