New North Thurston High School football coach William Garrow has a little of Thomas Alva Edison in his thirst-for-innovation personality.
As far as getting his players to embrace modern-era technology as a new way of football life — the light bulb is starting to come on.
The 31-year-old Garrow certainly would like to duplicate the success his predecessor had with the Rams. Rocky Patchin, who retired at the end of last season, won 151 of his career 227 games in 24 seasons at North Thurston, with seven state-playoff appearances.
But when it came to staying up with the times — new technology and social media being two primary examples — Rocky Patchin very much took after his name. He often was stuck in the Stone Age.
Garrow very well operates in the 21st century, on and off the field.
“Part of it is my nature — I did have a cellphone in high school,” said Garrow, a 2002 Hoquiam High School graduate. “We are not so old that those things should be foreign to us.”
To Patchin’s credit, when he hired Garrow as his defensive coordinator last season, the longtime coach gave his new assistant a long leash for integrating new ideas into the daily routine.
Some of it was little stuff: Garrow created team Twitter and Instagram social-media accounts. He organized meetings with parents, discussing the importance of how to market their children on social media for college recruiting purposes.
Garrow revamped the team’s strength and conditioning program through Volt Athletics, a Seattle-based company that sends specialized workouts through a phone app.
As far as daily practices, Garrow scripted each team period down to a “T,” using another time-synchronized phone app called Ultra Timer.
“Really, these are ways to communicate with kids and their families … that are beneficial for football,” Garrow said. “It has no bearing on whether we win games or not. But it has been positive in creating culture.”
Six weeks after Patchin stepped down, Garrow was hired to become the program’s new coach.
And during his first spring camp, Garrow landed a bombshell: The team was going to be part of an experimental, practice-specific survey conducted by former running back Hayden Maliska (2011-13), a student at Linfield College who has been working with Seattle Seahawks sports scientist Dean Riddle.
“So basically at the end of the day, they ask, ‘How much do you feel the effects of practice — on a scale from one to 10?’ ” said Rams linebacker and team captain Ryan Burgman.
At the end of practice, players walk over to Maliska’s station. They take a colored wooden chip that corresponds with their position group, and put it in a slot, rating how hard the practice was.
Coaches rate the difficulty of practices as well.
Garrow said all the data Maliska analyzes from last spring and this preseason camp is geared toward reshaping the team’s practice habits starting next season — and beyond.
“I think all of this is great,” Burgman said. “It makes a better connection between player and coach.”