Behind the scenes with Washington coach Kalen DeBoer
DeBoer let me tag along for a few hours before the Huskies' spring game. I learned more than I expected.
SEATTLE — OK. Here I am. Twenty minutes till 10 a.m. on Saturday, ready to follow Kalen DeBoer for a few hours before Washington’s spring preview, hoping to capture what this day is like for a head coach.
It doesn’t take long to get an idea.
Five minutes after I arrive, the coach is behind a closed door, meeting with a recruit and his family.
NCAA enforcement staff would not be keen on my presence at this meeting — and I’m guessing DeBoer wouldn’t be, either — so for now, I wait, seated on a couch outside the coach’s office as Huskies players come and go, helping themselves to a breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, steak, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal with toppings, hashbrowns, muffins, fresh fruit, yogurt, pure green juices and immunity shots.
Alison VandenBerghe, UW’s director of football performance for nutrition, says she wanted to simulate a game-day meal. That means familiar foods that have been served throughout the week, so as not to risk upsetting stomachs — or anxieties.
Players eat together at tables spread throughout the spacious fourth-floor lounge. When they leave, staffers turn the room over, laying out purple tablecloths with gold UW helmets and pom-pom centerpieces, because not long after the current players finish eating and head to the locker room, some 40 recruits — currently checking in and mingling inside the ground-floor facility entrance on Husky Stadium’s west side — will make their way up.
Washington’s spring finale is less game and more practice, with about 70 plays of scrimmaging broadcast on the Pac-12 Network and free for fans to come watch. More show up on this day than in recent years, though the event is far from a spectacle.
It is, however, an important, busy weekend for the program. DeBoer estimates 25 or 30 of the Huskies’ key recruiting targets are here. So are many parents of current players, as this is one of the few times the head coach will gather them in one room.
He has agreed to let me tag along for a few of his pre-practice duties. By the time I retreat to the press box, I’ve learned a lot — and been reminded, too, why all of this really matters.