LOCKPORT – Armed with a whistle and a clipboard, George Czart looked content Wednesday afternoon as he ran his team through some conditioning drills.
As Lockport's "new" head coach, Czart has returned to the head coaching position after a three-year break from being the guy who ultimately calls the shots.
"I feel like I'm back where I belong," Czart said. "I feel more natural and more relaxed. I'm no longer wondering what is going on. I'm back to where I've always been, back to planning stuff and thinking ahead and not waiting to see what other guys are thinking."
Czart likes that control and he's more than deserving of being handed the reins of another program after what happened to Czart during his last head coaching stint.
Czart had been a defensive coordinator for the Lockport program for over a decade helping the Porters to state titles in 2002 and 2003. Then in 2008, Czart made the leap from the assistant coach ranks to lead a first-year program in Lincoln-Way North.
Czart struggled through an understandably rough first season where the Phoenix went 0-9. But then Czart led the program to six playoff appearances in seven seasons, including a 11-1 record in 2015, a season that would be the last for Lincoln-Way North, which was closed in May 2016. Students were dispersed among the other three schools within Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210.
It was an absolutely disappointing way for things to end for Czart, who posted a .729 winning percentage at Lincoln-Way North in his final seven years with the program. And while the non-graduated athletes at Lincoln-Way North would be folded into the programs at the other schools within the district, there was not a head coaching vacancy for Czart to fill within the district.
Czart almost certainly could have found a school ready and willing for his services to run their program, he didn't want to uproot the rest of his life for the sake of the next head coaching offer that may have come his way. Instead, he served as an assistant under current Lincoln-Way West coach Dave Ernst.
While Czart readily admits that he very much enjoyed his stint with the Warriors, it simply wasn't the same as having the keys to the car.
"We basically do the same stuff, and it was good, but I missed things, Czart said. "I felt like every year I was learning something new and wanting to try stuff and growing. And it was cut short ,and now you have to take a backseat in respect to the coaches that are in charge. I didn't have a problem with that, I'd just rather do it myself."
After watching Czart's detailed practice plan in action, it's easy to see why he sought program control. The Porters are working at a brisk pace and idle time is hard to come by.
"We were pretty shocked when we found out we were getting a new head coach," Lockport offensive lineman Payton Collins said. "But after having the summer, we all absolutely love him. And I think things are going to turn out very well for us."
In order for Collins to be proved prophetic, Lockport will have a lot of work to do. The Porters were 0-9 last season and have won just two games in the last two seasons. They have just one winning season in the last seven campaigns.
But Czart has already proven he has a blueprint to making a program relevant in rather quick fashion. And he's already leaving an impression on his players.
"We knew what he had done at Lincoln-Way North, and he's got a presence about him. We figured out pretty quick that this guy isn't messing around," quarterback Marcos Voulgaris said. "We're just excited to have him. He's a great person and he's a mentor to us already."
Time will only tell whether or not Czart can put the Porters back on the proper path, but whatever bumps in the road lie ahead, Czart's not going to wallow.
"Whenever things get tough over here, I'm going to remind myself, this is what I wanted," Czart said. "I'm not going to complain, I won't have any regrets, because this is what I wanted. Good or bad."