Here at High School Cover 2 we have interviewed quite a few high school football coaches over the last few years. Almost to a man, they have been exceptional people that have gone into coaching for all the right reasons. Unfortunately, there are a, thankfully, small majority who have other interests and reasons for assuming the mantle of "coach". In the below article, Jim points out what can happen when winning becomes an obsession to the detriment of the kids. Running up the score is only one example of how our children can harmed by unscrupulous coaches. Thankfully, these people are a small minority, but they do exist.
Winning can be a wonderful thing. Losing can also be beneficial. It teaches you humility and, even more importantly, instills a motivation to work harder the next time to avoid the bad taste that accompanies a loss. Winning at all cost without any consideration of the feelings of the other team is, in my opinion, a terrible lesson to teach.
I just read a posting on Facebook by an ex-player whom I had coached. This young man had played for me as a freshman and then for John Ondriezek as a varsity member. After high school he played at Central Washington University. Scott Wendlendt is a great young guy who is volunteering his time and knowledge by coaching a youth league football team. He is good for kids. Now, not everyone who works with kids is worthy of praise simply because they are donating their time, which in itself can be an admirable thing to do. What are they teaching the kids playing for them? What do the opposing players learn? According to Scott a team from Lake Stevens (the Blacks?) beat another youth team 91-0. Let that score sink in...91-0. In a regulation high school game that comes out to be a point approximately every 30 seconds or so. Far be it from me to question the coach of the winning team and his mindset. Let's see, what could his reasoning have been? I know! He wanted to teach his kids how to fight against overwhelming odds and pull out a miraculous victory!! No, that's not quite it. How about if you knock someone down, rub their faces in the dirt, and, if you can, give them a sharp punch to the groin. It's what they get for being Losers. Yeah, that's it. Fair play is for sissies.
As an antidote to that kind of poison, I offer the case of John Ondriezek, a head coach to be emulated. Coach O (as his players call him) is having a down year. It doesn't happen often. After all, his teams are usually permanent fixtures in the playoff hunt. John is a head coach in his 40th season as a high school coach. He married his high school coach's daughter Sue and followed Frank Goddard to the Pacific Northwest and the Mukilteo School District. His deceased father-in-law was a member of the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame. John's teams now play their home games in Goddard Stadium, and John's credentials are every bit as strong as his father-in-law's. His team played for the 1997 class 3A title in the Tacoma Dome losing a hard-fought game to Capital. Since that time his teams have been in the State Playoffs on a fairly regular basis.
I was on my way to Homecoming last Friday when a neighborhood lady stopped by to talk with Lynda, my wife. Her husband had just passed away after suffering for years with Parkinson's. Since my kids' mother died when they were in high school, I knew just how fragile she was. I can definitely say that if you haven't been through it, you have no idea how the survivor feels. So, we talked, and I soon forgot about the game. I stayed up late until I heard the final score: 45-35. The next morning I went out to pick up the paper, knowing full well what I would find in the box scores: the first three scores were by Mariner's Josh Williamson (who scored twice on 2-yard runs and a 45-yard jaunt (en route to a 282- yard rushing game). That's the point where Coach Ondriezek eases up on the gas pedal. As he told me later, it was a little too soon, because Lynnwood came roaring back. You see, Coach O believes that he has a responsibility to every player on the field, his own and those of his opponent.
John Ondriezek is also one of the most loyal human beings on this planet. His loyalty to his players and those who have played for him is boundless. He has written letters and sent tape of marginal (but possibly promising) players and has gotten them into schools to further their playing days and their education. He has taken kids with average speed and average skills and built them into All-conference performers. He has gone to funerals and to weddings and has chaired a scholarship fund in the name of Aaron Zarate, a former Marauder who died in a tragic motorcycle accident. He has done this while being a totally involved family man (his son Matt was one of the best running backs I ever coached and who still is a fixture on the sidelines at his dad's games) Matt now works for Boeing..
This would have been my 58th year on a football field, and now I've seen it all. I have been accused of making a travesty (actually, I think the guy said joke because travesty is polysyllabic). I had a couple of my linemen carry the ball in a game that had gotten out of hand. A center score a touchdown? He handles the ball on every play but never gets to experience the thrill of scoring. Why not?. You can't put a player out on the field and tell him to not play hard. That's a sure way to get kids hurt, by not playing with maximum effort. So, you control the score by changing the players you put on the field. Let's face it, it's youth football, and nobody cares except the parents, and those of the winning 91-0 team should have been embarrassed. Jim Olsen