Chris Vandersypen crossed his legs, leaned back slightly in his office chair and exhaled. The first-year coach of Southeast High School is acutely aware of the problems of his new football program.
The Spartans ended last season with 29 players, then lost 14 to graduation. The participation rate in non-mandatory summer workouts is so low that the sound of weights clanking sounds like the beat of a song.
That, along with the fact that Oklahoma City's youth football league has all but disappeared, presents significant problems for the Southeast football program.
None of that is stopping the new coach from approaching his first season as a Spartan with optimism.
“It's a challenge with very good possibilities,” Vandersypen said.
Marguess Smith, the team's standout offensive guard, is one of those possibilities.
He comes to weightlifting sessions. He wants to play. He wants his team to see success and his teammates to follow in the footsteps of those who became better people through playing Spartan football, like former Oklahoma All-American Gerald McCoy, who now plays defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he understands some of the issues the program faces.
“Kids growing up and playing football here doesn't happen like in Edmond and Moore,” Smith said. “I played Little League ball in Oklahoma City but after that league shut down, everyone younger than me just slowed down on playing football.”
Then there are Southeast's recent struggles. The Spartans went 2-8 last season, 2-8 in 2011 and 3-7 in 2010. The last time Southeast went to the playoffs was 2003.