In pursuing victory with honor, it is my responsibility as a teacher and coach to serve as a role model…
Pursuing Victory With Honor
At its best, athletic competition can hold intrinsic values for our society. It is a symbol of a great ideal: pursuing victory with honor. To pursue victory with honor can mean different things to different people. Edward Bennet Williams, ex-owner of the Baltimore Orioles, said, “Win with humility and lose with grace.” Chuck Noll, who coached the Pittsburg Steelers to four Super Bowl titles once said, “I would rather play well and lose than play poorly and win.” The legendary John Wooden said, “Success is a state of mind. It is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best you are capable of being.”
You can pursue victory with honor in many ways. You can be a good winner and a good loser by not bragging and boasting if you win, not getting mad at the winning team, and not putting down the winning team if you lose. You can also help your opponents up if they get injured. You must also exhibit good sportsmanship, follow the rules of the game, not use “performance enhancers,” acknowledge the official’s decisions, and a host of other characteristics.
In pursuing victory with honor, it is my responsibility as a teacher and coach to serve as a
role model that will enhance the academic, emotional, social, physical and ethical development of students and athletes, and to teach them positive life skills that will help them become personally successful and socially responsible.
Whether they like it or not, high school athletes must understand that they too must serve as role models who exemplify good character to the young people who observe them every day on and off the field of competition. Our athletes never know to whom they are serving as “heroes.”
Adversity is a part of every athletic endeavor and in everyone’s daily life. It is how we deal with adversity that determines our character. In 1941, after a ten month blitz of London by the Germans, Winston Churchill said to a group of students at Harrow School, “This is the lesson we should all learn from this experience. Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming adversities you might face.” How true it is in athletics and in life.
The profession of coaching is a profession of teaching. In addition to teaching the mental and physical dimensions of the sport, coaches, through words and example, must also strive to build the character of their athletes by teaching them to be trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring and good citizens.
Although winning is itself fun and losing can be painful, winning is not essential to success. Success is not measured by trophies or medals, by press clippings, by wins or loses, by GPA or by wealth. In our program, winning is never stressed. All I ever ask of my students/athletes is to do their best…their best in everything that they do…in the classroom, on the field of competition and in their life. My students and athletes constantly hear me preach that “Success is being better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you are today.” If they achieve that simple goal, not only will they be successful, but without realizing it, they will also make our team successful.
At God’s footstool to confess
A poor soul knelt, and bowed his head.
I failed, he cried. The Master said,
Thou didst thy best, that is success.
They are told that their success in the classroom or on the field of competition is not determined by the grade or by the points they score for the team but by their effort, commitment, sacrifice, dedication and loyalty they give each and every day. Success is striving to do your best in all that you do. It means doing your best in the classroom, on the practice field, in competition and in your daily life. Success can have a wide range of interpretations. To me success, pursuing victory with honor, means all of these things. These are the values about which I have become very passionate and that have become the foundation of my teaching and coaching philosophy.
Since pursuing victory with honor extends from the field of athletic competition, to the classroom and in one’s daily life, it is important for a teacher/coach to employ the use of positive reinforcement. Certainly a “carrot” is more effective than a “stick.” In our program, peer recognition and parental contact have proven very effective. In the classroom outstanding achievement, effort or contribution is recognized in several ways. Students are asked to stand and are recognized for any outstanding performance while especially well-written assignments or projects are posted on a designated space in the classroom. It is especially rewarding to a student when asked if his/her paper or project can be keep and used in the future as an example for other students to model.
In athletics the same positive approach can be practiced. One simple example from our track program includes recognizing individual “PR’s” following a meet. At our first team meeting following competition, all athletes who achieved a personal record are asked to stand, and coaches toss each one a “blow-pop” sucker. Sounds simple enough, but if an individual is missed, the coaches are quickly reminded.
To follow-up on the importance of positive individual recognition, three to five phone calls are made each week to parents of students/athletes to share the achievements and/or progress of their son/daughter. That phone call is certainly shared with the son/daughter and an additional dose of positive recognition is administered. What is especially surprising is that parents often comment, “The only time I receive a phone call from school is when my son/daughter is in trouble.” What a shame!
One of the six pillars of pursuing victory with honor, certainly trustworthiness is especially difficult for students/athletes to achieve among their peers and in our society. Why? Because integrity requires courage to do what is right and to be true to one’s best self. It is one of the toughest requirements of an ethical life because courage requires one to face down what is feared most, not being accepted by one’s peers. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. When faced with conflict and paying a price, the student/athlete might not want to pay since it is easier to compromise one’s values, go with the flow, and not stand up for someone or something that is right. As teachers and coaches, we need to make an effort to help our students understand the importance of doing the right thing.
I love sports, and especially high school athletics, where we have not forgotten that our athletes are students first and foremost. I love sports, and you will see me working during my off-season as the official scorekeeper at boys and girls basketball games, wrestling meets, cross country meets as well as swimming meets. I also make it a point to attend choir and band concerts, drama productions and a variety of other student activities. I have even been known to walk into an art class, woodshop, welding shop, auto shop, etc., especially if I have students or athletes participating. I do this because I believe it is important to demonstrate to students/athletes/teachers that I support all students and their involvement in whatever activities in which they choose to become involved. They come to the realization that my interest in them goes well beyond being simply a coach in my specific sport. It is because of this demonstration of interest that students whom I have never had in class and have never coached will daily address me on campus as "Coach" or "Coach Robbie." What a special feeling that is!I love sports and believe that sportsmanship is our highest calling as athletes, coaches and fans. It is difficult to describe my feelings when athletes and students on campus address me respectfully as “Coach.” They respect the time, effort, concern and dedication spent in the development of their lives. Believe me, it is very special.
For anyone who might be wondering about my emphasis on sports, sportsmanship and athletics, I will simply state that our athletes are our students, and our students first and foremost. The same qualities and effort that equate to athletic success also lead to success in any and all endeavors in life—from learning to play the piano to solving a problem in math. Excellence, doing your best, being the best, doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work, tenacity, perseverance and attention to detail.
I love sports, but most of all, I love kids, and all that I have ever asked of my students or athletes is, do your best.
Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor defeat
is chalked against the player’s name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game.
– Grantland Rice
Another point I make to coaches is to treat their athletes in a positive way, with respect and encouragement. After all, at some time in the future these students/athletes will go to the voting booth to determine teacher/coaches salaries, educational overrides and other financial issues involving the school. The experiences they had while in school will "carry over" to the ballot they cast.
Finally, I am from the "old school" which encourages athletes to participate in multiple sports or activities. Not like so many of today's coaches who demand that the athlete devote himself/herself year-around to that particular coach's sport if the athlete expects to get "playing time" later. Unfortunately, many schools have coaches of this type.
Robbie Robinson has led the Mountain View High School Boys Track team to the Arizona 5A state championship in 1994, 2000, 2003, and 2004. They have finished runner-up in 1988, 1989, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2008, and 2010. He has led the Girls Track team to a state championship in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1997. They were state runner-up in 1979 and 1999.