RRHS football

Rio Rico head coach Kevin Kuhm talks to his players at the end of a practice on Aug. 13.

Kevin Kuhm is the new head coach of the Rio Rico Hawks, but he’s no stranger to the job.

In 2012, he was hired to coach a Rio Rico team that had never posted a winning record since the football program’s inception in 1997. The Hawks went 3-7 in his first year, then improved to 6-4 in 2013, qualifying for the Division IV state tournament before bowing out in the first round.

Kuhm left RRHS in 2014 to coach the team at Nogales High School, a job he held for the next four seasons until stepping down following the 2017 campaign after compiling an overall record of 19-22. He remained at NHS as the school’s athletic director and then as vice-principal before returning to Rio Rico to start the 2019-2020 academic year.

He spoke to NI about the upcoming football season following a practice on Aug. 13.

How’s the preseason going so far?

Overall, I think it’s going well. I’m learning about the players and the players are learning about me and our coaching staff. And we’re just trying to get them to understand that every day is the most important day, every rep is the most important rep, every drill is the most important drill. And to just come out here and understand what our standard is, and live up to that standard every rep, every drill, every practice, every day so that we can get a little bit better each day.

You also mentioned the goal of getting better every day in the interview we did right after you took the job. Do you see that happening?

I feel like through the summer and through these first two-and-a-half weeks of practice, it’s kind of been like two steps forward, one step back; two steps forward, one step back. We would like to take a step forward every day, but we haven’t gotten there. And that’s something that takes time.

I mean, high school students and people in general, we’re made to be average and just get by and do the bare minimum. To try to come in here and teach them that we have to be great in every aspect, and we have to be that every single day – that’s the hard part.

There hasn’t been any resistance, there hasn’t been any players or anybody fighting back. It’s just trying to be great in every aspect every single day is difficult and it just takes work to create those habits so that you can do that every day. And you just have to do that over and over and over.

So we’ve definitely improved, but I’d say it’s been two steps forward, one step back; two steps forward, one step back.

You talked previously about emphasizing accountability. How has that been implemented so far?

I think there’s three things that every single winning organization, winning team, successful business and successful people have, and that’s ownership, grit and accountability.

I think it’s been good, I think the players understand that there’s a certain standard, there’s certain things that they have to do to be part of this football program. One of those things we talk about: “You guys show up.” The first thing that you have to do is you have to show up every single day, whether you feel like it or not, you have to make a choice. You can’t live life by your feelings: “I don’t feel good, I’m not going to go.” No, it’s, “I don’t feel good, but I’m still going to make the decision to go to practice and get better today and go to school and learn something today.”

I guess in terms of accountability, we’re to the point now where we’re holding some players’ feet to the fire. And now we’re putting it on the kids, so we have a leadership council and those members of the leadership council are in charge of making sure kids are at practice.

If kids have to miss practice for any reason, they have to contact the leadership council and our players determine what’s a valid reason and what’s not. Rather than me determining that, I let our players determine that because in the end it’s their team. If they’re OK with guys missing two practices in a week and playing with them, then that’s on them. But I think we have a group of leaders right now that don’t believe in that, and the culture’s starting to change.

Now the issue is getting every single player on board. Right now we probably have half to three-quarters on board, but we need every player on board – especially when you don’t have many of them.

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