On Wednesday afternoon in the North Summit High School baseball field's outfield, Austin Simister's voice can be heard barking out signals, giving orders and shouting encouragement to his teammates on the Braves' offensive line.
Whether it's encouraging the Junior Varisty offensive line to keep pushing even when the five-man blocking sled is stuck in a rut or letting a teammate know when he's doing a good job, Simister has taken on a leadership role for the Braves in his senior year.
Disappointed by a 2-8 record in 2012, Simister and his teammates are working hard to improve.
"I think we just want to do better than last year, which shouldn't be too hard," he said. "We want to get a couple more wins and just jell better as a team."
He and his linemates know that offensive improvement starts up front with them. With North Summit running a triple-option offense, proper blocking positions and technique are crucial for success.
"Last year, we kind of struggled on the line," Simister said. "This year, I think we need to work on sustaining and firing off the ball. We're working on getting to where we need to be."
The improvement so far this year is noticeable, he added.
"I think we've been doing great," he said. "We've been doing a lot better than last year. These last couple games, our line's been really good. We've done everything how I've wanted to."
But Simister and North Summit coach Devin Smith admit there's still plenty of work to be done.
"The kids are committed to getting better and the coaching staff is committed to getting better and that's what we're worried about right now," Smith said. "Every time you watch film, there's stuff everyone can get better at, even the coaches. If we played our perfect game right now, I'd almost be nervous because the season's so young."
With Simister anchoring the right tackle position, protecting left-handed quarterback Ryan McMichael's blind side, Smith is confident the Braves can make another playoff push.
"Austin is very smart and the kids like him," he said. "He works hard and he's passionate about it. It's nice to have someone with that much experience who's also willing to take on a leadership role too."
That leadership role includes more than just handing out encouragement, though.
"He's done a good job of being a good teammate, but also holding guys accountable," Smith said. "He's been doing it long enough to know what everybody's job is and he's done a good job of helping guys get better."
Simister has indeed been playing the line long enough to have it down pat, following in his father's footsteps.
"My dad was a left guard in high school," he said. "He was my coach in the little leagues, so he just told me, 'You play guard,' and I said, 'OK,' and I've played on the line ever since."
Simister, who plays the violin and the guitar in his free time, also notices the similarities between those instruments and his offensive and defensive tackle positions on the football field. While offensive-line play, involving complex schemes and finesse movement to get to the correct positions, compares favorably to playing an instrument like the violin, his position on the defensive line where he attacks the quarterback, jams up the middle of the offensive line and stops running backs from breaking through the North Summit defense lends itself to more of the rock-and-roll mentality. Though he thoroughly enjoys both of the instruments and both of his positions on the football field, the defense/guitar mindset is his favorite.
"You just get in there and tear people's heads off," he said of the defensive tackle position. "It's a lot more fun."
Simister anticipates this season being his final year of organized football, but isn't opposed to playing at the next level.
"I've never really thought about it," he said. "If I get offered [an opportunity], I'd probably consider it, but I wasn't really planning on it."
If he and his teammates can advance past the first round of the 2A playoffs this season, he might just have to reconsider. But, for now, Simister just focused on leaving the North Summit football program in a better place than he found it.
"As a captain, I've just had to make sure people get into their position and make sure they feel at home in their positions," he said. "A lot of these guys aren't really sure that they belong at the varsity level, I guess, but I just try to get them there and tell them they belong, because all of them do."
North Summit (1-1) took on Gunnison in the Braves' first region game on Friday night, after this issue went to press. Check out Wednesday's issue of The Park Record for a recap of the game.