Kip Crofts

Payette football coach Kip Crofts shows defensive reads during a practice on Aug. 16.

After a tough 2018 campaign, Payette football coach Kip Crofts has started the 2019 season with a new strategy.

Last fall, the Pirates forfeited the last four games of the season due to low numbers. So going into his fourth season with the Pirates, Crofts is taking a more aggressive approach when it comes to building a positive culture in the Payette football community.

On Monday and Tuesday, when every football team in the state of Idaho was starting football practice for the fall, Crofts was busing the Pirates to the YMCA Camp at Horsethief Reservoir in Cascade.

“I wanted to take the kids, whoever we have, I didn’t know if it was going to be ten guys or thirty guys, but I wanted them to have something different,” Crofts said. “It’s something no one else has.”

And from there, the “Payette Leadership Academy” was born.

For two days, the Pirates mixed a couple of practices in while doing team-building exercises and camp activities.

“We went over leadership techniques,” Crofts said. “We told them our expectations as a staff and we made them set expectations for themselves as players. We taught them how to lead and we taught them how to follow.”

But most importantly, Crofts told the Payette football team the motto for the 2019 season: We can do hard things.

“I don’t think the kids in the past, they didn’t believe that they could do hard things,” Crofts said. “We need to find that motivation within you. What motivates you? You miss a catch or you miss a tackle. It doesn’t matter anymore. Get back up and keep moving.”

After a week of official team practice, the players are feeling a change in the air around the Payette football team.

“This team is the most dedicated that I’ve seen since I’ve been playing on the football team,” Payette senior running back Deano Rodriguez said.

To reach out more to local youth and the citizens of Payette, Crofts said the Payette football team will be hosting a Meet the Team night on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Payette High School.

Crofts said the event will be open to anyone and he especially wants fourth through 12th-grade football players to join in for a night of fun.

“I want to bring in all the football players in the community,” Crofts said. “They can meet me, they can meet the coaches and they can meet the kids.”

Crofts said they will have a skill camp, games, food and will be selling old Payette football jerseys at the event.

The camp is part of Crofts’ “Be a Pirate” campaign, which he is hoping will get more and more youth involved in football in Payette.

“We’re really trying to get out in the community,” he said.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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