Inch By Inch: How One High School Football Team Turned Their Program Around in a Big Way


In the 1999 hit film, “Any Given Sunday,” Al Pacino’s character gives a classic pre-game motivational talk about how success is achieved “inch by inch.”

“When we add up all those inches, we know that’s gonna make the [bleeping] difference between winning and losing.”

Extolling the virtues of personal sacrifice, determination, commitment, teamwork and extra effort, it’s a stirring speech, for sure. It makes for great theater, but as you reflect on the 2016 season and start thinking about the 2017 campaign, is this notion of “inch by inch” relevant to your athletes?

The Turnaround Season

Titusville High School is nestled in rural western Pennsylvania with just over 600 students enrolled, and, like many small towns, has seen better times economically. It’s most famous alum is John Heisman (yes, THAT Heisman), who played varsity football for Titusville High School in 1884, 1885, and 1886, and was salutatorian of his graduating class.

Tom Hancock has been part of the Titusville community since 1992 and has worked as a School Psychologist since 1993. A strong proponent of student extracurricular involvement, Hancock has coached football and wrestling at all levels for almost two decades and he currently serves as the Head Football Coach.

In Hancock’s first year as head coach, the Rockets posted a 1-9 record.  

In his second season, they seemed to gain some altitude with a 4-6 record.

But the improvement didn't last long, as the Rockets posted a 1-9 record in 2015.

After three consecutive losing seasons in which the school posted a cumulative 6-24 record, Coach Hancock re-evaluated his approach.

In one season he turned around his program winning the Regional Championship and finishing with an impressive 8-2 record and making their first trip to the playoffs in almost a decade.


There were many variables, or “inches,” involved, including one that was a new and different approach in the weight room.


Kids Don’t Love the Weight Room

Coach Hancock recently communicated to the TrainHeroic Performance Team:

“Although there were a number of variables that contributed to our program’s turnaround, no one can deny the positive impact that TrainHeroic played.”

When we received the praise from Coach Hancock, TrainHeroic wanted to learn more, so we reached out to him, only to find that he is one straight shooter...

“Let’s be honest: most kids these days don’t love the weight room.”  

To support this claim, Coach Hancock estimates that only 5% of student athletes train seriously year round.

“And then, the guys who do train pick up the latest Muscle & Fitness magazine and concentrate on bench and curls, rather than how to become a better athlete.”

Coach Hancock recognized the need to get his athletes in the weight room on their terms.  Gone are the days of “smash mouth athletes” so he sought a new approach.  


Since most of his 38 players were multi-sport athletes, he had to secure the buy-in of the AD and other coaches. Many of the coaches don’t deny the importance of kids training in the weight room, but they lacked the experience to provide adequate supervision.

After hearing about the TrainHeroic platform on a HUDL video featuring former NFL great, John Welbourn, he pursued a free 14-Day Trial in May.


Measuring Up to Expectations

Coach reflects that, as with anything new, there were some initial bumps as they climbed the learning curve. For example, it was not known that the school disables the kids’ emails over summer making it difficult to notify athletes.  It took a couple of weeks to sort out similar snags.

We knew going in that not every kid would have access to a smartphone, so we were given an old laptop and I have two iPads that we utilize for kids that don’t.

TrainHeroic took away excuses and helped me hold the athletes accountable. For example, in the off-season, some athletes workout at the new Y and I can now keep tabs on how they’re working out.”

Although he’s losing 12 seniors, Coach Hancock is looking forward to next season with 6 rising seniors and several star underclassmen.

Plus, he wants to better utilize the reporting and other feature/functionality within TrainHeroic to track progress and help his athletes reach their full potential.

Recently, Coach Hancock spoke at the Titusville Area Youth Football banquet, where he impressed upon the 6th graders and their parents how important time in the gym is to the on-going and future success of the program.  These 6th graders, as they move on to the 7th and 8th grade program, represent the first class of Titusville athletes that are fully immersed in such a committed approach to strength and conditioning.

Coach Hancock knows that one good season does not define “success.”  But he’s taking a new and deliberate approach to building a sustainable program.

Inch by inch.


About The Author

A self-proclaimed “gym rat,” Jay’s disciplined commitment to fitness serves him well in building a start-up with the TrainHeroic team. Jay joined TrainHeroic in early 2013 and is responsible for business operations. After building high performing technology sales teams at MCI, PlaceWare (sold to Microsoft) and most recently at EnergyConnect (sold to JCI), he leads the office "push up break" at 10 a.m.