Coach's Corner: Kyle Roach 2/8

Kyle Roach

By Kyle Roach Former Pleasant Hill Head Coach
Posted: February 9, 2018 - 9:12 AM

I’m going to answer this with a resounding, “YES.” I am fearful, however, that alarming trends have developed to threaten the sport that I love and have been associated with nearly my entire life.

After reading the first two sentences of this, I’m sure what you expect next will be in regard to safety. It is NOT! I have long believed that the values taught, the lessons learned, and the character developed in our sport has long played an integral part in the development of many a young men’s lives. Traditionally, important traits such as work ethic, accountability, toughness, teamwork, and persistence have been valuable by-products for those having participated in high school football.

Presently, as we observe young men who are playing our game in college or professionally, it is alarming to see the increasing number who fail to comply to the guidelines set before them. I have begun to speculate that we, as high school coaches, have dropped the ball, failing to effectively instill the very traits that have made this game great. I wonder that in the quest for more “w’s”, the trend has become for more programs to overlook the failure to adhere to expectations because, “we need that kid to help us win on Friday.”

Historically, what has set this game apart, is the demanding nature of it. The pursuit of excellence through hard-work, high expectations, and accountability to the team. More and more, however, recently it has become evident that some of us are overlooking the failures of student athletes to meet a certain standard. Unfortunately, when we do this, we are neglecting opportunities to provide training for them to act in accordance with rules, and thereby creating in them, a false sense of entitlement.

My favorite answer from a coach, when asked how his team is going to be this year, is, “I don’t know, check back with me in 10 or 15 years, and we’ll see how we did by how these young men turn out as husbands, parents, employees, and citizens.” As a head coach, I would communicate to our players, assistant coaches, and parents, that if these kids aren’t better people after having been in our program after four years, then we have failed.

Is this still our motivation or is it to achieve a better record at any cost? The governing body of Missouri’s interscholastic athletics and activities (MSHSAA) mission statement is as follows: “The MSHSAA promotes the value of participation, sportsmanship, team play, and personal excellence to develop citizens who make positive contributions to their community and support the democratic principles of our state and nation.” Are we, as coaches and administrators, standing by these aims and values or have we abandoned them for the Al Davis philosophy, “Just win, baby”?

This quote is from Dorothy Farnan, English Dept. Chair, Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, NY, “Football may be the best taught subject in American high schools because it may be the only subject that we haven't tried to make easy.” I’m not sure if this still holds true in many of our programs, evidenced by the lowering of standards and the tolerating of unaccountability.

The ironic thing is, the vast majority of successful programs at every level are the ones that promote hard work and sacrifice, and set high standards for student athletes both on and off the field. A wise administrator (former coach) once told me, “nearly all kids will rise up to meet the minimum expectations you set.”

I think the ancient writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, got it right when he said, “If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.”

So, if this is truly happening, what has made seemingly good people stray from the path they were taught, to lead programs? Could it be outside influence or pressure? That’s for another discussion.

Kyle Roach is the former Pleasant Hill Head coach and past president of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association.