The Culture Of The ‘Ville

Sports can be really complicated trying to figure it out. You hear all the catch words that people love to spill out explaining how their teams always win. A lot of time they will use the word culture. Their teams had the winning or championship culture.

What happens when a team has a huge graduating class or the top two pitchers on a baseball team are injured? That happened to Matt Houchin two years ago when his two senior pitchers went down.

I guess the culture saved him since his team lost in extra innings in the District championship game. I think I’d give Coach Houchin a little more credit than the culture. He made some great moves with his personnel to advance as far as he did.

Back in the 1980’s, I had a state championship girls basketball team in Nebraska. That team graduated four starters but the next year that team made it back to the state semifinals. Must have been the culture, right?

I would like to think that the undefeated junior varsity was highly motivated to prove that they had a little left in the tank. I loved that team in 1984-1985. Only my point guard returned. They may not have had as much talent, but they were fun to coach.

That team got beat up twice by Adams, a class D-2 (the lowest class) school twice but still rallied to beat teams that should have beaten us. I think that team would be offended if you gave the culture credit for winning.

I read this article about culture since I wasn’t sure what culture meant. The article made it look simple. You only needed commitment, responsibility, accountability, integrity, respect, trust, leadership, courage comparison, and service. I forgot humility. That seems simple enough.

Is that how Maryville can brag about two national champions at Northwest Missouri State University? I’d like to think backbreaking work recruiting athletes and coaches that knew what they had in those recruits and used them wisely.

My son, Sam, asked me a question I couldn’t answer. He wondered was there ever a year where the boys won their district championships in football, basketball, baseball and track? That’s not to take away the boys’ golf or the girls’ tennis team’s successes.

Add the two together and I guess you have the definition of Maryville Culture. What I want to know is how we got there. Is it as complicated as the 10 factors I listed or is it something else?

I think it’s a little like my knowledge of basketball offenses. As I was graduating from college, the hot basketball offense was the motion offense. I sat through three class periods as Jerry Hueser, the Hall of Fame Kearney State College basketball coach tried to explain it to a bunch of young want-to-be’s. This is no reflection on Coach Hueser’s teaching ability, but to this day I still haven’t figured out the motion offense.

Let’s take a look at some key traits that might explain culture. You certainly need good attitudes. That’s really hard for a coach to develop. Someone once described attitudes to an infectious disease. He asked, “Is yours worth catching?”

Focus is an absolute must, but according to softball coach, Sue Enquist, don’t get too much of it. “If you focus on the win, it can suffocate you.”

If attitudes are infectious and focus chokes you, what about failure? Baseball is a game built on failure. Getting one hit every three times can lead to a Hall of Fame career. One coach thought failure wasn’t the worst. “Failure is never quite as frightening as regret.” I like the way Henry Ford used defeat. He said, “Failure is the ability to begin again more intelligently.”

One term thrown around by good teams is courage. Winston Churchill tied it to failure. “Courage is going from defeat to defeat with enthusiasm,” he said. Not every culture will win every time. You need a little back-up for losses.

Obviously, championship cultures have to have good coaches. One thing I heard a lot when I coached or heard from parents is the complaint against coaches having their favorites. The great football coach, Bear Bryant, did think much of treating everyone the same. He said, “That’s bull. Treat everyone fairly.”

Is it really this tough finding out how to build a winning culture? I think it’s a lot like when I tried to understand the match-up zone defense. For years, I read books, went to clinics and talked to coaches. I was trying to figure out how to get my team to learn a match-up zone defense. I finally gave up and went to my conventional zone defenses.

One day, I had a coach call me and ask if I could explain to him exactly how I played my match-up zone defense. Sometimes, things just happen. I guess we should enjoy the Maryville Culture as long as it lasts, no matter how it happened.

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