Booster Club Meeting with Coach John Flath

by Barbara Cutrell

Each Monday night during the football season there is a meeting of the boosters of the Lakeland Football Century Club. Last year Century Club president Sid Kimbrell began a new tradition of bringing in alumni of Lakeland High School and the Dreadnaught Football team to speak to the boosters.  At tonight’s meeting they returned to an older tradition of having each of the coaches speak about themselves, as individuals and coaches. Our first coach to speak this season was Coach Flath, offensive line coach. 

Coach Flath has been the Dreadnaught offensive line coach for the past 7 years.  He is a P.E. teacher at Lakeland High School as well a football coach. He has been married to his wife, Megan for 18 yrs and has 2 sons.  His oldest son Caleb, a junior at Lakeland High School, is an offensive line player for the Dreadnaughts. His youngest son, Jake is a freshman at Lakeland High School and plays soccer.

Coach Flath graduated from FSU, in 1993, where he played on the Seminole football team for 3 years. Coach Flath was an assistant coach and a head coach in several Orlando high schools before coming to Lakeland.

One of the aspects of Dreadnaught football that is unique, is there is a strong family tradition for all the players on the team. At a FCA camp his first year coaching at LHS, he asked all the players to stand if they had a grandfather, father brother or uncle, etc., that had played as a Dreadnaught football player. Once the players stopped standing, Coach Flath said out of about 60 players, less than 12 players remained seated. He thinks that is an important aspect of Dreadnaught football’s success.

As the Dreadnaught offensive line coach he has learned what is really important in a successful program. Two quotes from Coach Castle that Flath believes represent the coaching mindset of the team. The first is “coach the team”. “Coach the team”-don’t worry about the incidental activities, stay focused on coaching the team. His main job was to “coach the team”; Coach Castle expected him to just “coach the team”.   The second quote from Coach Castle is that no matter what happens leave the past behind and “move on”. They don’t dwell on the mistakes kids make or the mistakes in a game, they learn from them and move on to next game. 

Another program attitude that is special to Dreadnaught football is “never give up”.  The coaches coach the players that any obstacle/mistake can be overcomed with hard work and commitment.  Coach Flath attributes the “never give up” attitude to the fact that the “kids (players) are not aware that they can’t” for example overcome a 3 down and 23, they just go on the field and do it.  He says that sports and especially football is a “teacher of life”- each player learns that if you struggle, battle and wait, “your turn” will come. These are lessons the players will take with them all of their lives. 

This year’s Beefalos, as the offensive line is called, are very young.  Flath has 17 players on the offensive line that normally is a 12 man group. Few of them have much experience at offensive line, but Coach Flath saw potential in all of them so his offensive line is 17 deep this year.  “They are smart, hard workers and very respectful”. He expects great things from his young inexperienced offensive line this year and for future seasons. 

Quoting Rush Grimm-“nothing gives satisfaction like pushing a man from point A to point B against his will” Coach Flath said he loves to “push” his players to be better every game. but instead of focusing on the negative he prefers to focus on the positive.  Every week he uses game film to find the best plays for each of his players and on Friday afternoon at 4:30 before the game, the offensive line meets and reviews the film of their best plays from the week before.  He does so to   “encourage them and put the emphasis on the positive” before they head to game. While he wasn’t pleased with their performance at the Teneroc game, he will find something to encourage them with for this week’s game. 

Coach Castle ends the Monday night meeting as Coach Flath started it-on a positive note- he believes he has a great group of young men this year- “they work hard and are unselfish.  They don’t care who makes the play”; they celebrate the accomplishment with their teammate and “move on” to the next play.  Both Coach Flath and Coach Castle started and ended tonight with positive remarks about “their kids”.  It’s one of many things that make Dreadnaught football great-it’s always about the “kids”.