The Pioneer Stadium soundtrack changes from day to day.
Sometimes the catchy, sampled beats of 1990s hip-hop provide the Stillwater High football team with extra energy to start a midweek practice. Other days, the Pioneers walk through rooms while listening to current hits. Every now and then, trainer Tucker Barnard chooses Pandora’s “Outlaw Country” radio station, filling the stage with the nasal guitars and singing melodies of Hank Williams Jr.
Song selections can come from any genre or decade, but all the music is streamed through an audio system featuring a colossal subwoofer, two additional speakers, and a blue “S” logo on the front.
Barnard said he incorporated the tunes into football practice to give the Pioneers a boost during the season, and they bring a high level of excitement to their road game against Putnam City North, s ‘striving to end their schedule with a five-game win. playoff streak on the horizon.
Second-year running back Holden Thompson said it was a good idea for Barnard to bring the speaker to the pitch.
âIt gets our blood flowing, gets the adrenaline pumping,â Thompson said. “It’s just more fun to work out.”
It might be a coincidence that Stillwater (7-2 overall, 5-1 Class 6A-II District 1) has enjoyed consistent success since stirring music during training became part of Barnard’s routine, but the rise of this team during the second half of the season is evident. Although the Pioneers have secured the No. 2 spot in the district, they are set to face PC North at 7 p.m. Friday before turning to the playoffs.
Like Barnard’s eclectic musical taste, PC North (5-4, 3-3) is unpredictable. Barnard said the Panthers are a talented team, but they haven’t always lived up to his expectations this season, losing a few clashes he had imagined he could win.
Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Barnard said PC North has likely consolidated its fourth-place position in the district, potentially setting up a first-round playoff game between the Panthers and Bixby. With playoff predictions surrounding everyone, the Pioneers are trying to avoid looking too far ahead.
“I think it will be a really interesting game to find out where the mentalities are between the two teams,” said Barnard.
For Barnard, creating a winning mindset is about keeping Pioneers focused on their responsibilities while making sure they enjoy their day-to-day activities.
After Stillwater’s mid-season loss to Del City, the top team in the district, he noted that the Pioneers behaved in a solemn and professional manner. He didn’t mention it as a negative factor, saying it likely reflected their level of focus, but Barnard decided to have fun in the practice as well.
With flashing blue lights and wheels, the speaker system looks like it belonged to Stillwater High’s prom, but its school-inspired design also fits into soccer practice. Barnard said the Pioneers had it for about seven or eight years, although it had gone unused for a while – until this season.
Back in the days when the Pioneers struggled to bounce back from the loss of Del City, music became a mainstay of training as they performed drills and learned from their coaches.
Barnard said he sees it as a way to reach today’s generation of teenagers. Instead of distracting them, music motivates them.
âSometimes we can see these things as negative, like they don’t care,â Barnard said. âBut I think the reality is what we do know is that kids are a little different these days. All the different things going on right now, they’re watching TV while they’re listening to music and while they’re playing games.
“… I think sometimes we think they need to be focused and only think about one thing at a time, and that’s not really how they work.” “
The Pioneers sometimes react to the music when they enter training, offering either their support or disapproval for songs chosen by Barnard and offensive line coach Charlie Johnson. Barnard said he rarely accepts requests, although main left tackle Tayveon Morton has persuaded the coaches to add Drake to their music library.
Barnard said most of the group can get along on Pandora’s Michael Jackson station, which broadcasts a range of performers. His favorite is Outlaw Country because of the juxtaposition of relaxed and old-fashioned country tunes with the rhythmic intensity of playing football.
âI might be the only one, but it’s funny to me,â Barnard said.
If the Pioneers like a song, they will show it. Junior quarterback Gage Gundy can sing a few familiar lines, and Morton sometimes tries out a few dance moves.
“I don’t know if you would call them good,” joked junior center JaKobe Sanders. “But he’s dancing.”
While the music can entertain the Pioneer groups waiting on the bench, they quickly get serious when it’s their turn to practice.
The top of Barnard’s dry-erase board in his office displays a motivational continuum written in marker, with words ranging from “resistant” to “obsessed.” Barnard said he strives to get his team somewhere in the “committed” to “obligated” realm, far from resilient but not as extreme as obsessed.
Finding a balance is not always easy, and not everyone is always on the same point on the continuum. But when the Pioneers find themselves at the intersection of business and pleasure, the results show up on game day.
âA year or two ago a guy asked me what I thought was the key, how we got to a place where we’re very successful,â Barnard said. âAnd that was really my response, is that I think we’ve found a balance that works for our kids and for our coaches, too. â¦ I think that’s exactly it.