In pursuit of greatness on and off the field at Coronado High School

Coronado Head Football Coach Curt LeBlanc speaks to his players during a sprinting workout at Coronado High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Coming into his first year at Coronado High School, Head Football Coach Curt LeBlanc has one goal on his mind: win.

However, Coach LeBlanc’s vision of winning extends past the playing field and into the lives of the young men he coaches.

In order to reach that goal, Coach LeBlanc is preaching accountability.

“We’re going to have a standard and we’re not going to give in to that standard,” he said in a July 11 interview.

“Some guys have risen to that, some guys have accepted that and some guys haven’t quite gotten it yet but that’s not a light switch. That’s going to be something that happens over time.”

Coach LeBlanc’s vision is for those he coaches to make the transition from children to young men.

In order to accomplish that, he does not believe in yelling or imposing fear. Although he does acknowledge some times require a heavier hand, but in general, that is not how he will run his outfit.

“We’ll get to a point where the kids will understand that, they’ll police themselves and they’ll hold themselves to a higher standard,” he said.

Coach LeBlanc replaces former three-year Head Coach Mike Olson and brings an extensive resume.

With stints as head coach at River Valley and Queen Creek High Schools, Coach LeBlanc took a few years off of coaching after working as an assistant coach at Campo Verde High School.

He returned to coaching because he felt he still had something to offer in helping student-athletes find success on and off the field. He says didn’t want to take a job just to work again, but rather he wanted to have an impact. When the Coronado job opened, he went for it.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here to grow with these kids, again both on and off the field,” he said. “The ultimate ruler was that.”

A math teacher by trade, Coach LeBlanc has instilled a philosophy using the math formula of “X+1,” with the team’s standard needs to be greater than its opponent’s.

“It’s a nice math tie-in but also, it’s very simple,” he said. “It’s we have to do the extra if we’re going to be successful and that needs to be our standard.”

A new coach

Coach LeBlanc has about 25 years of coaching and teaching experience under his belt.

His first head coaching gig came at River Valley in Mohave Valley. He then moved on to Queen Creek where he coached from 2001 to 2009, coaching the Bulldogs to a 65–36 record with numerous playoff appearances.

Coronado Head Football Coach Curt LeBlanc coaches his players during a sprinting workout at Coronado High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Most recently, he had an assistant coaching role under Head Coach Max Ragsdale at Campo Verde in Gilbert.

While still teaching at Campo Verde, Coach LeBlanc decided to take a break from coaching for a couple of years.

“It was just the right to take a leave of absence and reevaluate some things and have some time to look at other things, things I wanted to do within a program. It was very valuable,” he said.

Coach LeBlanc could not stay away and returned not only to football, but to the head coaching ranks in March of 2017.

Football is a passion for Coach LeBlanc but not only because of the actual playing of the game, rather for what it can do for young men.

“There’s just nothing like facilitating the opportunity for young men to exceed beyond what they think they’re capable of and the other peripherals of discipline and accountability that are so lacking in today’s society,” he said.

“It’s such a huge hole this sport fits and fills and it’s neat to be a part of that.”

As he moves closer to the start of his first season with the Dons, Coach LeBlanc has two goals he hopes to accomplish in order for him to consider the past season a success.

The first is returning to the playoffs and the second is having minimal to no eligibility issues.

Coach LeBlanc said last year the team had significant amount of players not being eligible to play, hurting the team.

He hopes to correct that ship but not by lowering any standards, but rather by raising players to meet those standards.

“I’m not here to ask teachers to bend their standards. I’m not here to have us skate by. We’re going to do things the right way and that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said.

“We’re not going to compromise on that. If that means this first year is going to be challenging because we’re going not going to compromise then so be it. I’m here for the long haul and we’re not going to sacrifice our standards for anything.”

Coach LeBlanc’s early efforts with the players have not gone unnoticed.

Offensive lineman Isaiah Buendia said he noticed a change over the past year since Coach LeBlanc came to town.

“It’s been phenomenal because Coach LeBlanc is in here every single day with us, working, telling us what we can do better and he’s really in here interacting with us,” he said.

Coronado football players blast off the line during a sprinting workout at Coronado High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Crafting a team

This year will feature an almost brand new coaching staff, with Coach LeBlanc keeping two coaches from the previous staff to his nine-man crew.

As for the playbook, the defense will be similar to last year but Coach LeBlanc expects the offense may be a bit different than in past years.

First-year Coronado Head Football Coach Curt LeBlanc counts off players during a sprinting workout at Coronado High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

One change that has not yet taken effect is two coaches will be on campus during school hours to help keep players accountable.

One of those will be Coach LeBlanc himself as he will teach math at Coronado.

Coach LeBlanc said in past years, there were no coaches on campus to help keep an eye on players and help them when needed.

“Having two of us on campus will be a huge benefit and I’m hoping in years to come we can add to that and have more coaches on campus,” he said.

Given all the different challenges changes can bring to the team, Coach LeBlanc said he is impressed with how his team has adjusted to those changes.

“They’ve been very receptive to the things we want to do,” he said. “Going into something new, there’s always that chance where people are going to be standoffish about things but they’ve been very receptive.”

One way this transition is eased a bit is this year’s team is a younger group, meaning they don’t need to re-learn much from the previous season.

While Coach LeBlanc sees the lack of returners making for easier time teaching plays, Buendia sees it as a chance for younger players to rise up.

“The change is good because it shows a lot of leadership in the younger guys and not just those (who are older),” Buendia said.

Around the Scottsdale area, several schools have long traditions of success and solid coaches leading the charge, such as fellow 4A powerhouse Saguaro High School.

Coach LeBlanc is aware of those schools and their successes but says his team is not quite there yet.

He does not mean that as a shot against his team but rather as goal for his players to reach.

“What I tell our kids is they have established successful programs and we should be respectful of that but we have the same DNA,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of what we do with that DNA. That’s what we’re trying to instill now. If we do some things a little bit differently, we can move in a positive direction.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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