Extra Points: Brian Spano 10/3

Brian Spano

By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 3, 2013 - 2:07 PM

Every year high school football programs throw around terms like “team,” “commitment,” “family,” “winning,” “unity,” “respect,” “attitude,” “success” and “pride.” It always feels like when there’s a new year, there’s a new theme. But how often do coaches follow through on these beliefs when student-athletes trek down a wayward path?
I ran across the story of a high school football coach in Roosevelt, Utah who received a bit of national attention last week for suspending every player on his team for doing just that, and I applaud him for adhering to the principles of what it means to not just be a good teammate but to what it means to be a good human being.
Matt Labrum, the head coach at Union High School, had heard enough about his players skipping class, earning poor grades and even cyber-bullying a fellow student.
It was time for him to take action, and the one thing he could do to send a message loud and clear to his players was to take away the one thing they found most sacred: football. Labrum made them turn in their jerseys and equipment, making them earn back the privilege to play.
Labrum told CBS News, “I think the most important thing is that we build character.”
So how did he make them earn back that privilege?
He handed the players a letter outlining his decision that read, "Gentleman, we are not pleased with how our football brothers are representing our family, school ... and yourselves."
Labrum then laid out the criteria each player would need to meet to rejoin the squad: attend all practices, be on time, have no discipline problems. Each would need to complete a community service project and memorize a quote about good character.
With the support of his coaches, the school administration and even the player's parents, the team spent their Monday and Tuesday football practices digging weeds and cleaning and visiting a senior citizen’s home.
Almost immediately, Labrum began to see the fruits of his labor as many of his players began to earn their jerseys back.
Granted, the team was back on the field for its homecoming game just a week later, but this has become a great example of a coach putting his money where his mouth is. We sometimes forget these are boys still becoming men and still learning how to mature in a lot of ways.
It’s no secret that coaches play a huge part as disciplinarian, role model and father figure to many of these kids throughout their high school career and sometimes beyond.
But the lesson from Labrum seems simple. While “winning” and “team” and “commitment” and all those other terms are important, it appears that Labrum chose “kids.” He wanted to help build a strong character in these young men so they could contribute positively to society. It was kids over winning. And in the end, doesn’t that make us all winners?