Coaches understand winning and losing is part of the game. If losing does not hurt, then you are probably destined to lose more than you win. Winners win. They think like winners, they work hard and smart, they are prepared, they have a vision and the list goes on and on. The fact is they will lose some games. What will they do then? How will they react? Their reaction will tell a lot about their character.
I once served as head coach at Copperas Cove High School. The school district in this little town had grown from a six-man district to the largest classification in just 30 years. The previous 20 years before our arrival, the district was 59-185-1 for a 20% win-percentage. The district had only one winning season in the previous 30 years. Coaches lasted on average less than three years.
Our first year was awesome. The team had a winning record (5-3-1). During the first homecoming of our tenure we played traditional power Temple High School under the direction of one of the best legendary coaches in the state, Bob McQueen. They were 42-point favorites to win.
We were prepared and played a tremendous game. The Wildcats had beat the Bulldawgs just a few years prior by 70 points, so they probably took us lightly. The game was a battle and in the fourth quarter the score was tied 0-0. We lined up for a field goal and the Wildcats blocked it, only to see our boys pick up the blocked kicked ball on the other side of the 50 yard line and make a great run down the sideline for a touchdown. The touchdown was the only score in the game, and we won 7-0. This was the biggest upset in the state if not the nation.
After the game, I witnessed the greatest sign of character ever in my career. Coach McQueen started running toward me in the tradition of coaches shaking hands after the game. I did not know what to expect.
Coach McQueen did not shake my hand. He ran up to me, threw his arms around me and gave me a hug. He told me how proud he was of me, our team and assistant coaches. He went on to say this was the best effort he had ever witnessed from a Copperas Cove team.
Now for the rest of the story. Do not think Coach McQueen was pleased because he was not. He and his coaches went back to Temple after the game and worked all night on the film. I heard practices and meetings were very intense the next week. He took this experience and used it to strengthen his team. They went on to win the district championship and play in the state playoffs.
During our 24-year tenure at Copperas Cove, we finished with a record of 195-84-1 (70% win-percentage) and two state championship appearances. I have always tried to emulate people like Bob McQueen. They win graciously and lose with dignity.
Thought for the week, “There was never a champion who to himself was a good loser. There is a vast difference between a good sport and a good loser.”
— Red Blaik
Dr. Jack Welch is a college football coach. He holds a Doctor of Education degree and has been a college and high school football coach for 39 years. He is author of the book titled “Foundations of Coaching” (2020). He can be reached at email@example.com.