Near the end of a practice during Evergreen Park’s football summer camp in late July, Dan Hartman seemed as comfortable as ever. And it wasn’t just the 20-degree temperature drop after a week of sweltering heat and humidity.
Hartman calmly watched the offense run through some plays and encouraged his players in some final conditioning drills. Practice ran smoothly.
But there are still some things Evergreen Park’s new varsity football coach isn’t so acquainted with.
“Basically, the organization and how everything goes as far as all the stuff behind the scenes to have a successful team,” Hartman said.
It can all be a little overwhelming for a varsity coach at a new school, let alone for someone who is 27 years old and taking up his first head coaching gig. But, so far, Hartman is taking things in stride and relying on his assistant coaching staff to help him with the transition.
Much of last year’s coaching staff left with former coach Mike Barry, who took the heading coaching position at Hinsdale South. But two holdovers have helped Hartman out early on: defensive coordinator Ray Mankowski and assistant coach Dave Pierce.
“(Mankowski) knows the lay of the land over here and how everything goes, so I’ve kind of relied on him a lot as well as Coach Pierce,” Hartman said. “They know a lot of the kids.”
After four weeks of summer camp, including a number of 7-on-7 drills with other schools, the players know what to expect from their new head coach.
“I think he’s really good. He has a mindset to win and our team has a mindset to win,” said senior running back Vince Baker. “We put that together and we have something.”
Baker rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season and will be a focal point on the offensive end. Hartman is implementing a slightly different offensive system, but it’s mostly about a change in terminology. With Mankowski staying on as part of the Evergreen Park staff, the defense will remain the same this season.
Evergreen Park went 5-4 last year, coming up one win short of the playoffs. The Mustangs haven’t made the playoffs since 2006.
“This senior group’s goal from day one has been to make the playoffs, and I think that’s a good goal for us to hit that 6-4 mark and get into the playoffs,” Hartman said.
With a couple of new transfer students, Hartman likes what he sees at the skill positions. Evergreen Park had about 45 individuals participating in summer camp, but Hartman still would like to find another 10-15 athletes to provide a little more depth.
In the final team huddle, he spoke about the progress the team had made through the summer. An assistant coach said a few words before Hartman remembered to talk about the next day’s activity: fundraising.
“I’m sure the first week of the season when we get the scouting tapes out and put together that game plan for the first week it’ll be a bit overwhelming at first,” Hartman said. “But I think I’ve been prepared with what I’ve been doing the past few years to get everything set up and get everything rolling.”