The way the entire team rallied around Ray Goad (No. 77) this week is a reflection of team culture, says coaches.

A display of team spirit at a Vinton-Shellsburg football practice this week, and the support a player facing unique health issues received from his whole team, moved a mother to tears and inspired his coaches to talk about brotherhood and cohesiveness.

Jen Goad, the mom of VS freshman Ray Goad, explains her son’s condition and what she saw this week:

“Ray has a biscupid heart that leaks fluid,” she says. “He will have valve replacement surgery next year, and then will be fine to play again after recovery.”

While the condition had previously meant Ray had to stop playing football for a while, cardiologists cleared him to return to the playing field for this season. Ray, the largest freshman on the field, wears No. 77. During last week’s game, he blocked a PAT kick attempt and recovered a fumble, while also making several tackles despite frequently being double-teamed, with two offensive linemen blocking him at the same time.

Ray’s size and heart condition makes it hard for him to keep up with his teammates during conditioning/running drills, says Jen.

“We always encourage him to keep going, never give up, if you continue to push yourself harder then the day before eventually it will get easier,” she adds

Earlier this week, Jen was watching as Ray and the rest of the team were running their conditioning circuits. All of the other players had finished their course, and noticed that Ray was not yet done.

One of the team managers joined Ray as he ran; Jen even joined him for a bit.

That’s when the rest of the team turned around and headed back to Ray.

“When everybody from the entire team ran back to him, he got a new pep in his step,” says Jen. “He was able to finish. To have that brotherhood was really cool.”

Jen was so moved by the sight that she had too many tears in her eyes to take photos of the teamwork.

“I was back at my car watching, trying to yell to him to not give up, to keep going,” she said. “After his team finished and Ray was still going I watched the entire team run to him, to motivate him to keep pushing and finish strong, cheering him on, while I cried at my car. It was awesome,” she said.

Freshman/Sophomore coach Anthony Church and head coach Jim Womochil praised the players for their culture of caring for each other.

“They are growing as young men just as much or more as they are growing to become better football players,” says Church. “I really like the growth of this group up to this point. From last year to this year, we have improved greatly on being a team and acting like a team. I think people outside the team are seeing what growth we have made, but they haven’t seen the back behind-the-stage story of how the boys have grown in the process of weightlifting and participating and competing in other sports.”

Church said he and the players had an important discussion this week about setting a goal higher than just winning.

“We talked as a team and came to an important agreement that I believe will help jump our culture higher than it is right now — which isn’t in a bad place, but better is always better,” says Church. “We aren’t okay with just a win; we want to be winners of consistency — getting better is a strong cornerstone to this group’s culture.”

Also, says Church, the interaction between players of different grades is another important part of the team culture.

“We also have a strong group of sophomore players that contribute to our group as well,” he says. “Their impact on our program for the remainder of this year and the next two years will impact the program greatly.”

Womochil says that from the beginning of the season, at Football Camp, he and his staff try to coach the players on the importance of culture.

“This is an example of what we want in our program,” said Womochil. “Part of our ‘changing of culture’ is to pick teammates up when they are down or struggling with conditioning or assignments.  Early in our season we have noticed a team cohesiveness that has been stronger than in years past.  It is a commitment by our players. Our coaching staff has tried to make it a priority for our program.  It started in our summer workouts and carried over to our padded team camp.  Also, the purpose of our camp-out is to get our team together and focus on being a tight-knit group.  We emphasize a brotherhood within our football program.”
Also, says the coach, the staff appointed a player leadership group to devise team rules and that group produced a team handbook that outlines rules and the culture they want the VS program to represent.
“The situation with Ray completing his conditioning circuit is a good example of some of the good things that are happening in our program,” Womochil says.