I think in football today many people do hot have a good handle on what WINNING means. First of all, anyone who has the guts to put on a football uniform and step out on the field wants to WIN. That is a given. When Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing,” I think what many folks don’t understand is that the great coach was only talking about pro football. Men get paid. It is a business and they are judged on wins and losses. There are no moral victories in professional football. But for high school and college, ‘winning is the only thing’ doesn’t hold up. High school and college football is about EFFORT and ATTITUDE. Seven percent of all the athletes in high school that play sports can make a high school football team. Six percent of all high school football players can make a college football team. Two percent of the college football players will get some type of pro tryout and less than one percent will actually make a living playing professional football.
That being said, high school and college football are about getting a good education that will lead to a productive job. High school and college football should teach the values of hard work, determination and understanding how to function as a team player. And oh, by the way, having a little FUN.
When you win a championship or not in football is not the only thing. There is still so much to gain; so much to learn about making the attempt, by competing to the best of your abilities.
I will give a real life example. In high school and college, I was so very fortunate to play and coach on a myriad of championship teams. But the best life lesson I ever learned in football was coaching at St. John’s Jesuit in the early 90s. We made the playoffs and played Massillon in quarter finals of the state playoffs at the Akron Rubber Bowl. We traveled with 4,000 SJ fans. Massillon brought 10,000. Their band was 120 strong. They had a real tiger on the sideline on a chain. They were incredibly physical and fast. We had a lot of kids on our team that were 150 lbs. that went both ways. Not the case with the Tigers. One offensive team, one defensive team. We were outmanned. But our SJ team had so much heart, effort and desire they had Massillon down 21-7 at the half. Our kids played beyond their abilities it was a beautiful thing to watch. It was like watching a modern day David vs. Goliath. The courage and desire our kids showed that night in the Akron Rubber Bowl was something I have never forgotten. We did not win that football game that night, but I can say with a high degree of confidence that the lesson of competing even when you were outmanned physically but you still fought your heart out and never quit, was a remarkable life lesson to learn . It was something no SJ player or coach in the stadium will ever forget. The lesson learned that night even in defeat was also about WINNING.
So winning isn’t the only thing in high school and college football, there is much more to it. Just like in life and in the real world, you are not going to win a championship every year. Some years will go well, some won’t. But that does not mean you don’t give your best effort. You can learn those things through playing football in high school and college. It is about EFFORT when the odds are against you. You compete. That is the real winning that the game of football gives you.

Tom Cole is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Taylor Automotive Family and teaches broadcasting at St. John’s Jesuit and Adrian College

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