RICHMOND – Initially, it was Mike Noll’s sparkling coaching record, with all the conference titles and playoff appearances, that grabbed the attention of his new players at Richmond-Burton.
Noll, who is 224-71 in 28 seasons at McHenry and Glenbrook South, hoped that produced some credibility to the Rockets, while realizing that his daily interaction with players mattered even more.
“It takes time to develop trust with kids,” Noll said. “My deal is to show up every day prepared, be enthused, be positive. When kids see you’re prepared every day, you’re passionate about football, you talk to them about more than football, hopefully, over time, trust develops.”
R-B’s players appear to be well on their way with their new coach, who was hired in April. Noll takes over a program that has been to the Class 4A playoffs for 11 consecutive seasons.
The Rockets were forced inside by lightning and rain Monday, the first day of high school football practice in Illinois, but Noll ran his team crisply through drill after drill, working on reaction and technique. At the end, players sat attentively while their coach tackled objectives as small as picking up after themselves.
“He’s very specific about doing the little things,” defensive back Devin Bailey said. “I really like that. I like how we’re all very organized on doing stuff and paying attention to what’s important. He’s really putting our team in a position to be good with the talent we have.”
Offensive lineman Parker Gibson said several team fathers were familiar with what Noll did at McHenry from 1988 to 2003. The Warriors made the playoffs every one of Noll’s 16 seasons there and won 14 Fox Valley Conference titles. Noll was 25 when he took over at McHenry.
Glenbrook South missed the playoffs seven straight seasons before Noll arrived. In his second season as Titans coach, they started a string of 10 consecutive playoff appearances.
“I was really excited,” Gibson said. “We looked at his record and how he turned two programs around. We were ready for it. He’s a really good coach. He’s a genius about football, that’s for sure. I’m glad he came here.”
R-B needs maintaining more than rebuilding, having won 87 games over the past 11 seasons. Now Noll, who retired from teaching in June, can just coach.
“He’s really nice, and if you ever have questions, he’ll straight tell you,” said Kyle Curran, an offensive tackle and defensive end. “He’s a good coach. I hoped to go out with a bang our senior year. So far, I’m happy with what we’re doing.”
Noll could see the athletic ability on videos and in practices. A vital part of his new role was becoming acquainted with his players and their families.
“To get below the surface, you have to talk to kids and find out what makes them tick,” Noll said. “What their hobbies are, what they’re going to study, where they want to go to college, what their family life is like. That’s all important.”
Noll said he has met, one-on-one, with more than half of his players’ parents.
“I like the kids, and that makes me want to come to work and get it done at a high level every day,” Noll said. “That’s a big deal.”
The players respect Noll’s effort and personality.
“He’s hardworking most of all,” Bailey said. “He’s retired now, but all of his life is about football. He puts his time into us, and I appreciate that about him.”