Playing and watching the game of football since I was a small boy, there were some things that I didn’t understand; things like, why do some teams seem to always be good, and others up and down? Why was the coach of a team not successful, and a new coach comes in with most of the same people, and wins? After watching this fascinating game for over 55 years, I think I have figured out what makes a successful coach: attention to detail, discipline, a system that fits the team, assistant coaches that believe in the program, the ability to teach and demand good fundamentals, honesty, and a personality that commands respect. I have been fortunate enough to have had this kind of coach in my life. My senior year at Greenville, Tom Holman was that kind of coach. He never became too animated, was a stickler on blocking and tackling fundamentals, made sure we knew what to expect from each opponent, and his positive attitude made you respect him. He also let you know where you needed to improve. I do not know Coach Bart Schmidt. I have never met him or talked to him. I have watched his team play, and I have the feeling he is this kind of coach. The biggest thing I have noticed is how much better his team is in blocking and tackling. That is the biggest thing I have noticed along with his teams attitude, they never quit! They believe what he is selling, at least that is what it seems to me. Coach Al Hetrick was that way, and his teams are legendary. Coach Jerrod Newland is the epitome of this type of coach. These gentlemen worked their teams tails off; hard, boring repetitive work, but look at the results! Pat Summit, the legendary coach at Tennessee, was a brilliant task master, and her players loved her. She was adamant that her team be fundamentally sound. Jackie Stonebreaker at Versailles is another example of good coaching, hard work, and success.
I have not talked to the present members of the Greenville team yet, but I would love to hear what they think. I remember when Coach Holman was here how hard we worked, and how rewarding it was. I imagine today’s players feel the same way. Coaching today is not easy. You have to put up with athletes with attitudes, even some parents with attitudes. People are constantly second guessing everything you do, too. Some school administrators are difficult to deal with, especially when parents complain that little Johnny or Jenny isn’t playing. In today’s climate, the head coach is the only discipline some athletes get. The funny thing is most kids gravitate to this discipline because they see the results.
Success breeds success. Success comes with hard work and people who can work their teams, convince them what they are doing will work, and do it calmly, confidently, and with attention to detail. Usually when this type of coach yells at you, it is because he knows you can be more than you are. Sometimes you need to hear the truth, it may hurt, but the good athlete responds positively to the challenge, and the coach knows that. They rarely yell at the guy or girl not willing to make the effort! Coach Holman rarely talked to me. One time, near the end of pre-season practice, Coach Holman wanted to talk to me after practice one day. Coach Moore (my line coach) had told me Coach wanted to see me; I wondered what I had done wrong, but I went up to him and told him Coach Moore said you wanted to see me. He looked at me with those penetrating eyes over the top of his black glasses, held a football in both hands pointed it at me and said our offense was only going to be as good as I was at recognizing the defense (I made the line calls). He wanted me to know he was counting on me, and he knew I could do it. Then he gave me the ball and walked away. No pressure, right? That little talk made me work harder and study more knowing he had that confidence in me. I am sure he had that same kind of conversation with a few of the other seniors on that team. That honesty, and trust in us meant everything, and it payed off in the only 10-0 season in GHS history.
Good coaching makes a difference, I know, I lived it, and I hope the current crop of athletes at Greenville may realize it too. That’s how I see it from the sidelines.
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner