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Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part Q&A with new La Salle-Peru football coach James Bragg.
James Bragg received his break from La Salle-Peru.
When the 28-year-old was hired as the new Cavaliers football coach April 9, it gave Bragg his first head-coaching opportunity after four years as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at PORTA High School.
It was the next step in Bragg’s coaching career, during which the Decatur St. Teresa and Blackburn College alumnus finished as the runner-up in numerous head coaching searches before landing the L-P job.
With the first day of high school football practices just four days away, the NewsTribune recently caught up with Bragg to discuss his coaching style, expectations for the season and his interests outside of football.
In your hiring story, it was mentioned that you like to run a Power I and a Wing T formation on offense. Do you plan to run both, one of the two or something else? We’ll just run the I (formation). We’ll be two backs, straight I and we’ll hopefully be three yards and a cloud of dust. To me, we’re putting our players in the best situation to be successful and the I seems to fit us pretty well.
The I formation can also be part of your best defense, too.
What type of coach are you? Are you laid-back, hard-nosed, energetic? I’m myself (laughs). But I would kind of go with a little more laid back. A lot of people may not tell you that, but I like to think that I am.
I’m also very open and the door is always open with kids. When a kid comes in, they know that I’m going to sit down and take some time with them. I’m not just going to shove them out the door quickly. I would say I’m more of a players’ coach, but they know there’s that line and it’s been drawn about how I am your coach and we’re not buddy-buddy.
But I’m kind of laid back and very organized. A lot of coaches around here have already started to make fun of me because I’m too organized.
What were your thoughts the first time you saw Howard Fellows Stadium? Excitement. When you stand on the field and here an echo, you can only imagine what it’s like on a Friday night.
It’s a very unique stadium that you’re not used to. Nowadays, a lot of schools build a new stadium, but it’s kind of cool that we have the old-school stadium and will sell out every Friday night. Whether you’re 9-0 or 0-9, people are going to come and watch, and I think that is cool.
From your perspective, at the end of the season, what would be the definition of a successful first year for the L-P football team? To establish an identity for the program of being competitive on the field. We don’t want to walk in and at the end of the first quarter saying, ‘Well, that’s it.’
I want people to say or to hear through the grapevine that L-P football is on the right path and that not to be measured on wins or losses but to be measured on how we handle ourselves and conduct ourselves on the field.
The La Salle-Peru Youth Football League in entering its fourth year. Have you had any involvements in the league yet or will you in the future? I’ve talked to those guys and I want to get them running what we run, but what we’ve told them is this year there’s a lot going on at the high school with my late hire and trying to get everything organized that this year we want them to keep doing what they’ve done in the past. We do plan to be around and at games and available, but in the offseason we’re going to try to get them on board with what we’re doing at the high school level.
People may define or recognize you as the L-P football coach, but other than football, who is James Bragg? I’m a family man and I love doing stuff with my kids. I love being outside, and I’m a big runner. I completed a half marathon last April on my birthday and I’m looking to do that again. My wife and I go on a family run, so you may see us running around. (One morning last week) I was out at 6:30 a.m. and I ran three miles.
I’m also a gardener. I love gardening, and that’s what was unfortunate about this whole transition (from PORTA to L-P) is that I didn’t have an opportunity to do any gardening this year because we were trying to sell our house and move up here.
My son was like, ‘Where’s the tomato plants, daddy?’ and I had tell him, ‘They’re not in the ground this year, buddy. We didn’t have time to do that.’
We also do gardening around the house. My son and I planted every single Hosta that’s around our house in Petersburg. We have the plants on the deck. My daughter is still learning about it all, but my son is also all about the solar lights that look like a firefly, so whenever we go to Menards we usually have to pick up one or two and we’ll go home and he’ll be like, ‘Daddy, let’s put it over here.’ It’s all fun.
When fans leave an L-P football game this season, what do you hope people say about you’re team? They look better, are doing better and are on the right path.
Basically, I don’t want people to leave with the old sour thing of, ‘This is the same old program.’
I want people to believe that we are changing. Talking to some of the kids and the coaching staff, I think we’re on the right path and it’s exciting. Now we just have to spill it over to the community and back it up.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.