Pascagoula High School head football coach Lewis Sims wants to make sure his players understand that the name on the front of the jersey means a great deal more than the one on the back.
Sims is relying on a program created by a former teammate of his at the Naval Academy to help foster teamwork among his players.
When the Panthers jog onto the field in their blue jerseys this season, there will be no names on the back of their shoulder pads. Above the Panthers’ jersey numbers, there will be just a single word - attitude, respect, enthusiasm and work are among the options.
Sims got the idea when he saw what a former college teammate of his, Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, was doing as the head football coach at SUNY-Maritime in the Bronx, New York. It’s all part of a program called WARFACE that Kendrick-Holmes created at the Division III school.
Sims first became aware of his former teammate’s creation in an article about Kendrick-Holmes’ deployment to Afghanistan in a 2010 ESPN.com article.
Sims was a defensive back and Kendrick-Holmes was a linebacker in the early 1990s at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The two share a special bond strengthened by the fact that Sims gave Kendrick-Holmes his first salute as a newly commissioned officer. Tradition holds that a new officer buy his first salute with a silver dollar.
“He was a senior and I was a sophomore,” Sims said. “We bonded as teammates. He’s one of the best people I’ve met in my life. It just so happened where I could be his first salute.”
WARFACE is built on a model of core values developed by Kendrick-Holmes. W stands for work ethic, A stands for accountability and R is for respect. F is for family, C stands for character and E is for enthusiasm.
When Pascagoula wears blue jerseys this season, the players are just following the model set by Kendrick-Holmes at a maritime college located 1,300 miles away in the Bronx.
“It’s not really a war thing,” Sims said. “It’s more about setting guiding principles for the program.”
Before enacting the program at Pascagoula, Sims sent Kendrick-Holmes an email asking for approval to use his idea.
Kendrick-Holmes gave Sims the thumbs up, but required that a donation be made to the Wounded Warriors Project. Pascagoula’s booster club followed through with the donation.
Sims, who had the Pascagoula field house decorated with WARFACE imagery when it first opened in 2014, believes the program has helped him build a better chemistry among his players.
“Everything is about the team,” Sims said. “The toughest thing for a coach is to get a team to buy into each other. Doing it for your self, it’s easier. It’s kind of like when you have a workout partner, you’re more likely to exercise. I have a guy I’ve been running with for four years now. We haven’t missed too many days and it’s only rained on us once.
“That’s the mentality. That’s just about the WARFACE mentality. That’s just a basic tenant of it. You have to have accountability. You choose your attitude. When you wake up in the morning, it’s either good or bad. You’ve got a critical choice to make every day when your feet hit the floor. It’s all about protecting the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back of the jersey. No matter where you are, you represent your family on the front and on the back. Every decision you make represents your family.”