COACHES CORNER: Winning isn’t everything

Adams Central’s Nick Neuenschwander (18) crouches down as time runs off the clock in the Flying Jets’ 34-28 loss to the Indianapolis Lutheran Saints in the Class A state championship game last year at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photo by Chad Ryan)

My wife’s late grandpa was a great man. He had lots of quotes and one-liners he’d throw out, oftentimes to bring humor to a situation.

But when it came to sports and competitions, he had one that always stuck with me – “Winning isn’t everything, but losing

While it may seem silly to say “Winning isn’t everything” in the heart of the playoffs, the reality is only six teams in Indiana end their seasons victorious. Being one of the hundreds of other teams who see the year end in a loss does suck, but in this week’s Coaches Corner, I would like to talk to the players who are ending their careers who may never play a competitive game again, on how this feeling will go away and how what you learned over the last four years will help carry you much further in life.

When you hear retired professional athletes talk about what they miss the most from their playing days, almost all of them say something to the effect of “my teammates” and “The camaraderie of the locker room”. That holds true in high school football as well. The friendships you’ve made from hanging out after practice, taking bus rides, grinding in the weight room during the offseason and playing in the games will be what you reminisce about when you are out with friends talking about “the good old days.”

It’s what I love to do when I run into old teammates. We love to talk about how hard we would grind in the offseason, what we would do after getting the dub on Friday nights (whether that was going out to eat, hanging out at someone’s house or just messing
around in the parking lot of Snider). We oftentimes talk about how close we were as a team, not how many tackles we had or what the score was in a game during the middle of our junior year. Hold onto those friendships and memories! They are special
and last a lifetime.

I am a firm believer that football is so much more than just playing the games, and that high school football certainly goes well beyond just four years!

You’ve developed habits while playing high school sports that you don’t even realize will be so beneficial to you as an adult. Teamwork, accountability, work ethic and being coachable are all valuable traits in the professional world that you now have a leg up on with your experience. I believe that high school football teaches kids life values and builds character. Employers are always looking to hire someone who has been a part of a sports team. Those people tend to understand the importance of being able to work together as a team much more than someone who was not involved in sports or extracurricular activities. I love the saying that “uncoachable kids become unemployable adults.”

I was lucky to have great coaches and mentors help me develop habits like these while I was playing high school football. To this day I still have a great relationships with my coaches, including Coach Kurt Tippmann. I can text him at any point for advice and I know I will get a response from him in a timely manner. This is what it’s all about at the end of the day. Using these lessons lead me to starting my own business and continue to push me to succeed at that. And for me personally, high school football taught me sportsmanship, how to put the team before myself, respect for others, persistence in all that I do, hard work, and most importantly, how to value a friendship.

For you underclassmen who still have another season or two of Friday Night Lights ahead, don’t take it lightly. Your time will come soon, so make the most of this time. Take a few weeks off to rest and recover before getting back to work. Once you’ve done that, if you aren’t playing another sport, start hitting the weight room hard (it all starts in the weight room), remember the feeling you had walking off the field after you were defeated and use that as your motivation, watch film, find a great training facility like OPS for position-specific training. (Especially you lineman!)

Use the offseason to your advantage. You can definitely separate yourself from your opponents during the offseason months.

My brother-in-law Sean helped me with this column. He coached high school hockey in Indianapolis for five years and he hated giving that end-of-the-year speech after his team’s final loss. The advice he’d always give to his players was, “This moment may be the lowest feeling you’ve had, but know you have so much ahead of you. When you sit back and think about your playing career you won’t remember this moment, but you’ll always remember the guys sitting next to you. Losing stinks, but it’s a part of life. Just remember this loss doesn’t define you or what you’ve done the last four years.”

I find that last part to ring so true. The ability to accept the fact that you lost a game and admit defeat is not easy, but it’s definitely something you must be able to do in life. In the real world, no doctor has the ability to cure every single patient, no salesmen closes every sale, no lawyer wins every case and no employee has every answer for their company.

Use losing as a chance to grow and improve and better yourself for the future!

Coaches Corner appears weekly at Outside the Huddle. The author Wes Painter played football at both Snider High School and Indiana State University. Following his playing career, Painter coached defensive line and special teams for the Sycamores before moving back to Fort Wayne. He served as an assistant coach at North Side from 2019-20.

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