By Eddie Fields, Teacher and Coach
Space Coast high School (FL)
With a runner on first and second with no outs I looked across the diamond to see the signs our third base coach was giving to our hitter. The glance was obligatory because like everyone else at the park I knew that he would give the sacrifice bunt sign.
As the hitter crept to the front of the batters’ box and the opposing coach called in his bunt coverage, my mind circulated utopian thoughts. The pitcher went into his delivery, our batter squared around and I enjoyed one of the most special moments in all of sports.
Perfectly executed, the bunt rolled down the third base side just inside the foul line. The defense made the out at first base. And our players, coaches and fans eagerly cheered the selfless actions of the young man who gave himself up for the team.
The retired player hustled back to the dugout and my mind wandered to a recent discussion I had participated in on a coaching message board.
Annually the topic of “Should I take a coaching job in a bad football program?” comes up. The general consensus is that some jobs are just too bad to consider. With the lack of administrative support, talent and resources many coaches feel some schools’ football programs just can’t win.
I understand this side of the discussion. As a young coach I had visions and dreams of winning state championships. I set my ambitions and actions toward this goal. I worked hard to become a better coach. I attended clinics, watched film, opened the weight room, read books and drew X’s and O’s. And, asked questions, lots of questions.
I made these efforts because they would help my teams win. The coaches who concur with the conclusion that some football programs just can’t win are probably right. I agree with them. Some schools may never field winning football teams.
But don’t the kids at those schools deserve quality coaches too?
Shouldn’t those young men have coaches who develop them as players, students and people as well? Wouldn’t you want your children to be coached well if they attended one of those schools?
Couldn’t you be one of the coaches that could make that difference?
As coaches, we actively promote the message of sacrifice – a “we before me” philosophy. We stress the importance of the “greater good.” We talk about building men by teaching life lessons. We say that the game of football is about more than wins and losses.
These are great motives. Endeavors worthy of pursuit. Yet, sometimes our desire to win distracts us from our purpose.
Coaches that want to win or coach in winning programs aren’t the problem. The drain of coaching talent at severely struggling programs does create a worrisome challenge within both our profession and those programs. For football to continue to serve the greater good we need quality coaches willing to mentor young men even when the scoreboard is not in their team’s favor.
I hope as you search for your next job or contemplate your future options that you will consider the difference you can make in young men’s lives, even in losing programs. Think about the opportunities you can provide the players you interact with beyond wins and losses.
Society may never acknowledge the impact of a losing coach. Outsiders may always base your accomplishments off of the win column. But you as a leader can define success differently. It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson. I have missed many opportunities in my coaching career to serve my players because I was chasing wins.
I still hate to lose. And, winning is still way more fun.
Don’t get me wrong I still want to win championships. It is just far more important to me to mold champions. So remember when life’s third base coach gives you the sacrifice bunt sign, give a little of yourself for the good of the team.
See you next time,