Clinton High School football team continues breakfast tradition before playoff game
CLINTON--Players on the Clinton High School varsity football team chowed down 250 slices of French toast and 200 sausages in less than 30 minutes at Emmanuel Reformed church.
The student athletes and coaching staff woke up Friday before sunrise to fuel up for their Division 4 playoff game Friday night against No. 1 ranked Big Foot.
“I look forward to it every morning before a game,” said Connor Gampbell, Clinton High School junior. “It's something to bond with the team over. It's a good time, and we really appreciate that the church does this for us.”
Each morning before a game, the No. 5 ranked football team gathers in the basement of the church for breakfast and a pep talk from Rev. Clyde Rensink.
The tradition started in 2001 when Rensink was looking for a community outreach program.
He saw the community's passion for football and realized the program would be a perfect fit for Clinton.
“This is a really wonderful collaboration between the church, the community and the football team,” Rensink said. “They come because they love to eat.”
The Clinton Cougars made the playoffs for the first time since 2000 this season.
Last week they beat No. 4 ranked New Glarus/Monticello in a first-round Division 4 game. Friday night they took on Big Foot.
Before the teenagers piled food onto their plates, Rensink told the boys they have made their community proud.
Throughout the season, Rensink has shared the John Wooden pyramid with the players.
The pyramid, created by the former University of California-Los Angeles basketball coach, provides steps to success.
The football players Friday morning learned about initiative and how they shouldn't fear failure.
“If you have a dream, you just can't have a dream,” Rensink said. “You have to own that dream. To own that dream, you have to pay something for it, you have to risk failure. So, do more than just have a dream … We want to pay what it takes to have it.”
Head Coach Jeff Spiwak said the players need to hear positive messages such as those shared by Rensink. He said community support is what a small town is all about.
“The community appreciates the kids on the field and the kids appreciate the community,” Spiwak said.
Spiwak said even though the breakfasts are not mandatory, the entire team comes.
Jake Marchillo, senior captain, said getting up in the morning is worth the teams' time.
“To be able to do this for us is awesome,” Marchillo said. “I've been doing this all four years. It shows the community supports us and it's a great thing to do before the game.”
Yvonne Gretschmann is the woman behind the scenes and in the kitchen.
She organizes the menu and schedules the mealtimes for the football season. She said it takes a lot of work, but it's fun because at the end of the meal she gets to cheer on the athletes.
“I always just say, 'Win, win, win!'” Gretschmann said while pumping her fist. “If you win, you can come back next week.”