Boone County head coach Rick Thompson is a man who loves what he does to no end. His zeal for the game of football shows through clearly while watching him pace the sidelines on Friday nights. He becomes totally consumed with trying to squeeze the most out of his Rebel players. It is an unbridled passion that is truly genuine.
The Rebels' head man has seen the program during its good times and the bad and is a big reason for the school's success in recent years.
We caught up with Thompson and grabbed his thoughts on coaching his son, Boone County and in his competition in Class 6A, District 6 in the year ahead.
Q: You have had the privilege of coaching your son Bryson. What advice would you give other coaches who will be coaching their kids and what have you learned about yourself from the experience.
A: It has been a privilege. I watched Tom Stellman get to do it, Dale Mueller, and Sam Simpson from Henry Clay as well. All were very open in discussing their experiences about what to expect with me. I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give would to make sure that at home you are still Dad and try not to coach at home. Sometimes that is easier said than done. My wife will tell you that I don't ever really get away from football, so the natural tendency is to continue that coaching/preparation at home, but the family needs a break from it as much as anyone. Hopefully I will do a better job of that this year.
Q: This is senior class is different than most it is Bryson's senior year and you have seen all these kids grow up playing sports together since they were little. What will be the good and bad of knowing what your expectations are be for this group?
A: I also knew the guys that graduated with my daughter and their families quite well so I have experienced this before. The oddest part then and now is that you cannot believe how old they are and how fast the time went. There are quite a number of young men who play for us that have played sports with my son while they were growing up and it has been fun working with them. Some of them I got to coach in knothole baseball and basketball when they were much younger and some their bodies were quite different. We also have a couple boys from our street who play and they have really developed themselves into players. The other thing, besides the guys playing at Boone, are some of the kids at other county schools that Bryson has known and played with through the year. It has been fun watching them progress and have success as well.
Q: Class 6A, District 6 has become a force in big school Kentucky football. What are the most significant changes that you have seen throughout the league since you arrived at Boone County?
A: I think there a couple of factors that have led to the success that this district has had. One is the level of coaching in our district. The guys at the schools in our district do a great job preparing their teams to play. The talent pool has also gotten better as well. When I got to Boone as an assistant in 1985 in was just Boone and Conner. Campbell and Dixie were already established programs with a good population of athletes to work with. Our county was beginning to experience growth that led to the addition of Ryle and Cooper. It has spread the talent out in Boone County. There are no open enrollment or tuition students, so everyone has to do a good job with the kids that live in their part of the county. Simon Kenton has had a surge in growth and athletes moving in which has allowed them to develop a consistent, successful program as well. As I have said for a number of years that you have to be ready to play against everyone, every week if you are going to have success in this district. We have been very blessed to have the success we have here at Boone over the last 10 years as well as the two decades previous to that.
Q: Last season was the first time in a decade that Boone County did not make the playoffs. What is it going to take to get these kids embracing the Rebel ways of the past?
A: It is not so much about getting the kids to embrace the Rebel ways of the past. Credit must be given to teams in our district because of their talent and coaching. We have had good kids who have worked hard in the last two classes, but they were not as athletic as the classes that preceded them. We were a more competitive team last year than we were the year before even though that team made the playoffs. Defensively we improved our run defense, but struggled to get off the field because of our inability to stop the pass in key situations. Injuries were a factor as well. If we could have closed out three district games that were there to win we wouldn't be mentioning not going to the playoffs. The kids worked hard and gave effort every week, but just couldn't get over the hump. Our upcoming seniors have shown outstanding leadership this offseason and the kids have worked hard on improving this spring. The area that we need to improve the most over last year is our pass defense and then our inexperienced offensive linemen need to become consistent blockers.
Q: What is it about Friday nights that make you want to keep coming back year after year to coach?
A: I am very lucky in that I get to do what I love to do and really have trouble seeing myself doing anything else. I love the game and studying it. The relationships that we get to develop with our players as they develop as men and players is a big factor in that as well. I was at high school football game the night before I was born. When I was young my father played semi-pro ball in Cincinnati, so I was going to practice for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate to play in an outstanding program like Highlands for Bill Herrman and have gotten to work with some of the great coaches in Northern Kentucky like Owen Hauck, Bernie Barre, Mike Murphy, and Fred Bernier. Also, I have been fortunate to work at Boone with a number of outstanding assistant coaches. Finally all the coaches in Northern Kentucky who I have had the privilege to compete against and work with in the Northern Kentucky Football Coaches Association make it fun. I may not coach in Northern Kentucky my entire career, but the people in this area have made it a great ride.