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October 24, 2006 > FFL coach teaches more than football

FFL coach teaches more than football

by James Bell

Marshall Johnson has been inspiring young men for over a decade in Fremont. He coaches the FFL (Fremont Football League) Rams and is well-known for his special style of training.

Coach Marshall is an "old school" coach who incorporates Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) principles into his program. PCA is based on helping kids climb the ELM tree. E stands for Effort. L stands for Learning and improving every week. M stands for learning from Mistakes. Coach Marshall epitomizes these principals.

While PCA principals are relatively new in football circles, Coach Marshall has helped countless kids learn these principles for the past 14 years, coaching football to boys ranging from 8 to 12 years old. These boys not only learn to play football, but live every aspect of their lives with "Pride and Desire," concepts the Rams learn throughout the football season.

Football has traditionally been taught by intimidation. Coach Marshall, on the other hand, commands respect from his team by maintaining his leadership stance and helping the boys understand that respecting others and personal responsibility, is key to their success on and off the field.

He has been known to give the boys assignments before the regular season starts and expects the boys to complete them without the player's parents having to remind them. For example, he had the boys look up the definition of Pride and Desire, and then use each word in a sentence. The boys who didn't complete this assignment had to do extra work, in order to learn the lesson of responsibility.

This exercise prepares the boys to turn in academic progress reports during the football season. The boys have to get their teacher(s) to sign off on the report for each subject, using Above Average, Average, or Below Average. Coach Marshall hands these progress reports out on every other Monday, four times during the season of eight weeks. The boys who make an above average report can stand up after the game that week to be recognized as a scholar/athlete, thereby serving as motivation for other boys to bring their grades up.

The team's cheerleaders participate in this academic reporting program as well. The boys watch the cheerleaders perform a routine at halftime and after each game. The boys say loudly, "good job cheerleaders" after each performance. When snacks are passed out, the coach instructs the boys to allow the ladies to go first.

Beloved by his students because they know he cares about them and respects them, the parents also see the effect he has on their sons as they begin to display maturity through Coach Marshall's program.

Oh, and by the way, the team has won the FFL American Division championship three years in a row.

The Rams plan to hold a reunion/homecoming for all players who have ever played for Coach Marshall over the years on Saturday, October 28. Rams alumni are encouraged to go to the Rams website and RSVP at or call the Rams hotline at (510) 888-9944.

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