Three of the most famous college football coaches agreed Wednesday that high school coaches play a bigger role in the lives of children than ever before.
Tom Osborne, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and former Baylor coach Grant Teaff said the breakdown of traditional family structure makes high school coaches some of the most important people in the future of the country.
Speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the Nebraska Coaches Association Multi-Sport Clinic at Lincoln North Star, the emphasis on discipline, respect, loyalty, generosity and the basic fundamentals of social life often come from the coaches, said Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and one of the most influential people in college sports.
“We recognize the issues and problems that nobody hands coaches the tools to handle,” Teaff said. Effective high school coaches should be named to a “Hall of Influence” for their work with kids – sometimes filling in for a single parent in life.
“I had mommas call me up and say, ‘What about my boy?’ and I’d say, "You had him 17 years, at least give me a couple of years,” said Bowden, who won national football titles and was 6-2 against Osborne-coached Nebraska teams.
Osborne, who started the TeamMates program in 1991 to address the issues of fatherless families, said kids are looking for role models, someone who will speak the truth.
“High school coaches can be that model,” he said. “I started coaching in 1962 and we didn’t deal with many families without fathers. That has changed drastically in the 1980s, 1990s and the last decade.
“The TV set talks on the evening news about the economy, al-Qaida, but our biggest problem is what upbringing we offer to kids,” Osborne said. He said he was surprised that over the seasons, he had to teach players who had never been exposed to character issues. He took a word, “honesty,” for instance, and through the week before a game talked about what it meant. “After 13 games, we covered a lot of building blocks to character in a season,” he said.
Bowden, who has spoken in Nebraska often, said the people of Nebraska could help lead the way, too.
“I have always appreciated the Nebraska people and I like them,” he said. “They’re not like people from New York, Los Angeles. They have a wonderful association with each other and they can lead the way.”
* Bowden on the concussion problem in football: “I played with a leather helmet and we didn’t get concussions because we tackled with our shoulders. We didn’t use the leather helmet as a weapon.” Osborne added: “Rugby is a very rugged sport and they don’t wear helmets and don’t have the concussion problems football does. I’ve watched old tapes of games and the shoulder pads were bigger and you saw most linebackers wearing a neck roll. NASCAR and physicists have found that kind of protection prevents the whip lash that can cause concussions,” he said. Teaff said the helmet was devised to prevent skull fractures. “Not a weapon,” he said. “We have started programs with the AFCA ‘Heads Up’ to teach proper tackling. The helmet can’t stop the fluids in your head from violent shifts.”
* Nebraska Coaches Association president Nancy Kindig-Malone presented Osborne with a fly-rod kit for his years of coaching in Nebraska. “We asked and we were told that this is something he’d never buy for himself,” she said.