ATLANTA—Darrian Carmichael, aka Coach Syrup, has the market cornered on positive reinforcement techniques with today's youth.
Carmichael, the offensive line coach at Jonesboro High School, keeps a bottle of maple syrup holstered on his coaching belt during game days.
At first, the plastic container served as a personal good-luck charm ... but now, the coach has taken the squeeze bottle's purpose to a whole new level.
Thanks to ... the pancake block.
What's a pancake block? It's the universal football term for when an offensive lineman or blocking back squares up on a defender and knocks him cleanly to the ground.
In the afterglow, the blockers sometimes lie on top of the overmatched defender, guaranteeing a tackle won't be made.
Former Ohio State left tackle Orlando Pace brought the pancake term back to national prominence in the mid-to-late 1990s, routinely crushing his competition; and that physical dominance carried over to the NFL, en route to Pace becoming a world champion, perennial Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and eventual member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Back to Jonesboro ...
The kids are apparently quite smitten with Carmichael's motivational ploy. Whenever they make a great physical play on the field, they're rewarded with a sweet treat from the coach, via an energy-boosting shot of maple syrup.
In a discussion with USATODAY last week, Carmichael acknowledged the early success of the Syrup For Pancake Blocks program, but wanted to expand the outreach with his players, once the reward status has become a certifiable hit with the team.
The additional criteria for on-the-spot syrup shots: Monster blocks and touchdowns.
"It was not until pregame (of the season opener)," Carmicheal told USATODAY. "I said, ‘You know what, fellas? We getting syrup shots when we come off the field for pancakes and for touchdowns!' And it has been a hit ever since."
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Carmichael has impeccable timing with this promotion, given how many colleges have raised the bar, creativity-wise, with individual-award ceremonies during games.
So, why wouldn't this same trend trickle down to the impressionable high school ranks, where the game maintains a certain innocence ... and by extension, sweetness.
"I believe (in) this day and age when coaching kids you have to have something extra for them to look for or an incentive to make them go harder," Carmicheal wrote to USATODAY. "You should see my boys' eyes ready to run to the sideline!
"If you have played football before or offensive line, you know we do not get all the praise and accolades when we do most of the work. This is just something to make them proud and feel appreciated because NO ONE GETS THE SHOT BUT THEM.
"It makes me happy knowing that they are doing their assignment and having fun doing it!"
Jonesboro's next game will be Friday, Sept. 21 at Starr's Mill High in Fayetteville.