Is it Bullying for a Football Team to Win 91-0? Parenting Lessons on Winning and Losing from a Football Coach

A parent accused the opposing team of ‘bullying’ after his son’s high school football team lost 91 to 0.  The Texas father asked why the winning team didn’t just take a knee and stop the game?  The story created a lot of debate, reminding me that many educators and parents try to prevent low self-esteem by protecting students’ feelings at all costs.

I talked with my friend, Jeff Cole, an assistant football coach at Fellowship Christian School in Roswell, GA about the story.  I also asked Jeff how he prepares his players to win and lose and how as a parent, he teaches these lessons to his own children.   Here’s his story.

Paladin 5/6th Grade Football Team

Paladin 5th/6th Grade Football Team, courtesy of Fellowship Christian School, Roswell, GA

“I was hoping they would just let me hold the chains,’ said Jeff when football Head Coach Ron Haigler asked Jeff to join the Fellowship Christian School Paladin coaching staff as Defensive Coordinator for the 5th/6th grade team.  Jeff started playing football in 7th grade in a small Tennessee town and played in college, walking on at the University of Tennessee and playing defense for the ‘Mighty Vols.’

A successful businessman, Jeff volunteers his spare time to help coach the team.  “We teach our players to work hard and have a good attitude.  When game day comes, they have a chance to compete and win, to reap the reward and have fun.  On game day, the players want to play — you just can’t ask them to take a knee,’ said Jeff about the way he prepares his players.  “The Texas coach said he pulled his starters in the 1st quarter which was the right thing to do.”

Lessons for Losing

I asked Jeff about how he talks to his team after a loss.  “Losing the 2013 playoff game after winning the first 6 games was very disappointing.  However, we praised our team for their effort, doing their best and competing.  Sometimes no matter how hard you prepare,  it doesn’t work out the way you want,” said Jeff.

If adversity builds strength and character, the 2012 Paladin 6th grade team got a full dose losing 7 games before winning their last game. “We won the last game of the season and the players were so excited, you would have thought we won the Super Bowl after that game!” said Jeff.

Lessons for Winning

The Paladins reversed their 2012 losses by winning their 2013 season 6 wins and only one loss.  I asked Jeff how he teaches his players to win?

“The air certainly smells sweeter when you win.  We teach our players that they can win without skirting the rules and being mean about it.  Some teach winning at all costs.  We don’t believe that’s winning because the broader lesson would be missed.  We want our players to learn how to compete.  We want them to be strong and courageous and do their best.  Fear doesn’t come from God,” said Jeff referencing the Bible, 1 Timothy 1:7, ‘For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’

Lessons for Parents

Jeff Cole, Angela and family

Jeff and Angela Cole and daughters Gracie and Emma

What lessons about winning and losing can you apply in your own family?   Here are three principles that Jeff and his wife, Angela apply in raising their children:

  • Practice and preparation are important in sports and in life.  Whether its piano lessons, sports practice or difficult homework, encourage your children to persevere and don’t quit.
  • Allow adversity to strengthen your children.  John Maxwell, leadership speaker and author says ‘Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.’
  • Encourage your children to do their best, even if their best is a B- and praise the effort.

Athletics can be a great classroom for teaching life lessons to students.  Parents who want to raise children to be strong and courageous should check out the Paladin Creed, seven character building values that guide the athletic program at Fellowship Christian School in Roswell, GA.

Question: How do you teach your children to win and lose? You can leave a comment by clicking here.