New season, new coach for Niles West

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SKOKIE, Ill. -- In most cases, the transition from an old coach to a new coach is very difficult. With a new coach, players have to adapt to new practice methods, plays and, above all, the personality of the coach.

For the Niles West Wolves football team, though, that isn't the case.

On Aug. 13, the first day of practice, new head coach Scott Baum had already won over the support of both players and coaches.

Baum was the offensive coordinator of the Wolves for three seasons before taking over the head coach position. Before coaching at Niles West, Baum was the head coach at Chicago schools Gordon Tech High School and De La Salle High School, and he was an assistant coach at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill.

Baum built an impressive résumé of 20 years of coaching experience, a state championship and two Chicago Prep Bowl Championships.

Some might wonder about the secret to Baum's success, and just like any other coach, he says it starts at practice.

"This year, we changed up the schedule quite a bit," Baum said. "It used to be that the team would start with lifting weights and then practice on the field. Now we start out on the field and lift later."

Players quickly noticed the change and felt a little bit more relaxed about the way Baum has handled practice sessions.

"We start off the day with a high tempo," said senior defensive end and linebacker Dimitri Tripkos. "Practice is very relaxing because of the way that coach acts towards us. He is a pretty funny guy, and that kind of attitude makes us really comfortable around him."

Baum said that the reason for his friendly attitude is that he wants the team to feel comfortable with him.

"I want to develop an attitude with the team, and that attitude is that we need to have a more physical type of game. I find that being on the same page and developing a good relationship with the players helps not only on the practice field but also on game night."

Another change that Baum implemented is making practices shorter. He hopes the team will be able to get more done in less time.

"It has become more of quality than quantity," Tripkos said. "Practice becomes efficient and it goes by smoothly."

Praise for Baum comes not only from the players. The coaching staff also is impressed by Baum's actions.

"He does a great job at keeping the team's morale at a high level," said wide receivers coach Mike Leaks. "As a coach, I feel as if I have more freedom in terms of teaching the players that are in my group. He isn't the kind of coach that bosses the other coaches. Instead, he lets them do whatever they need to do to prepare the players for the upcoming season."

In an article previously published in the Niles West newspaper, West Word, offensive and defensive line coach Rich Costante expressed his anticipation with Baum as the head coach.

"He is a very outstanding coach and I think that we will get far with him," Costante said.

Practice aside, Baum expressed his excitement about the upcoming season.

"I am really trying to play towards the team's strength," Baum said. "The line is the strength of the team, but I am also looking to improve the other sections of the team so that we have a very powerful team going into the season."

With a new head coach and the high morale for the team, players are looking forward to the upcoming season.

"I expect the team to make it to the playoffs," said senior running back and strong safety Nate Borjas. "Having Baum is a step up from previous years, and the team has really good chemistry and we are more united."

Senior linebacker Collin Jaffe agrees.

"I'm excited about a lot of the games this year, especially homecoming and the game against our rival school [Niles North]. I think that this team is ready for a change, and I think that change will pay off as the season goes on."

Rexly Peñaflorida II is a senior journalism student at Niles West High School in Skokie, Ill.

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