With their football program teetering on upper echelon status in the Big Eight and drawing closer to another state playoff berth, Jonesville athletic director Kathy Bondsteel looked to a former Hudson Tiger to transform her Comets from boys to young men.
Joshua Lindeman is a self-professed blue-collar kind of guy who loves to bang heads and throw people on the turf (he was a fullback and linebacker after all).
He can hardly contain himself when talking about the challenge that lie ahead at the county’s second largest school.
At the first-ever Jonesville football camp for 9th- to 12th-graders, which began Monday, Lindeman has been quick off the line of scrimmage in getting his players to realize that being outstanding, disciplined individuals will go a long way when striving for tangible success. Lindeman said Bondsteel brought him in to develop leadership and create a lasting Friday night tradition and he has been hard at work ever since he was hired in early May.
“When I got hired here I was expected to do some things and one of them was to clean up the leadership and things of that nature,” he said. “As a high school player I was a blue-collar player from a blue-collar family who just hit a lot of guys and enjoyed it. That’s kind of the intensity and determination I want out of the players in this program. It’s going to be our goal to be the toughest team on the field every Friday night.”
Soon after taking the job, Lindeman unveiled his first lesson on how football can equate to life. Instead of just taking a vote and picking captains for the 2009 season, he implemented an entire interview process.
Lindeman said players who were interested in the captaincy were required to fill out an application, before facing a full-length interview with coaches, administrators and teachers, all while donning the appropriate attire.
Lindeman said he got some of his ideas from a coach he worked with at Tecumseh and it is an easy way to find out what players are serious about an important role on the team.
“It benefits them in the future. They aren’t just ‘hired’ after filling out an application, we put them on the spot and ask them some tough questions and make them think,” he said. “Hopefully it becomes something that shows it’s a big honor to be the captain and we have 10 or 12 kids apply who understand what it means.”
Lindeman said just three Comets applied for captain spots this summer, but all three were exceptional and bring their own unique strengths to the table, thus they each will be wearing a ‘C’.
Evan Lobdell, Alex Bontempo and Drew Hawley are the trio Lindeman and his staff designated for the role.
He has also pioneered a new policy that states players are allowed to miss summer workouts, but only if they excuse themselves at least 24 hours prior.
“You have to give us 24-hour notice, because again it’s a life lesson. When they have a career or job they can’t just not show up,” he said.
While he is serious, there’s plenty more to him.
The 27-year-old just finished his third year as a teacher at Jackson High School and he said he brought a “childish giddiness” to the first day of camp and he is thankful the MHSAA has made it legal to run such camps.
That child-like energy hasn’t stopped him from realizing the pressures of his new title, though.
The Comets went 5-4 in 2008, falling one win short of the state playoffs, but things ended rather awkwardly with former coach Brian Stroble, who mutually agreed with Bondsteel that a fourth year coaching was not in either party’s best interest.
Instead of trying to hide from that situation though, Lindeman is openly honest about some of the challenges he faces, while being quick to remind people that the past will not be relevant for long.
“Obviously I came into a situation that wasn’t a complete resignation, and everybody knows that, nobody hides behind it. It was kind of a mutual thing.
So you come in and you have players who were close to him and I totally respected that right from day one,” he said. “I said ‘I’m not here to run down your coach previously, I’m not here to take his place, we’re moving forward, but the things you didn’t do right last year we’re going to fix. So understand if I tell you we’re changing something, it’s not an attack at him, who you love and care about, we’re changing to what best suits us.'”
He said there are parents who really liked Stroble, as well as people who seem to enjoy telling him all of the former coach’s downfalls.
He said he wasn’t hired to worry about those complaints though, only to work with the administration and staff to make the program stronger and more dynamic.
Some things he plans on doing to achieve those goals are making a July camp for the entire program an annual event, while also implementing an “Orange and Black” game.
He said the scrimmage will take place the first Saturday after two-a-day practices begin and will showcase the varsity players and also serve as a sort of proving grounds for some of the top JV players. It will also give the community a chance to see the team’s early progress. After the contest team pictures will be taken and a grill out will commence.
“Football at a small program — you need to make it the most important thing in the world at the time,” Lindeman said.
Lindeman said he learned all about tradition by growing up in Hudson and he sees plenty of similarities between his hometown and his new home.
“I graduated from Hudson and Hudson is die-hard football. There’s a reason they won 72 consecutive games and there’s a reason if you lose a game on Friday night, people in the community aren’t happy with you when you go to the grocery store on Saturday morning,” he said. “They don’t want to see you and the community there takes it to heart, and that’s what I’ve gotten from this Jonesville community. Losses carry with them, it’s a sense of pride, it’s a sense of belonging.”
Even though football consumes much of his thoughts and time, to the point his wife has said, “it’s not a hobby, it’s an obsession,” Lindeman said there is plenty more to life than sports and he has already let his players know that.
“Faith and family come first, and this can’t affect my teaching job,” he said. “And in our program guide it has three values to live by as coaches and players.”
Faith and family comes first by all means, second is your job and for students that job is school at their age and third is the football program. I tend to keep those in order, although my wife would probably tell you not always.”