Football fodder or genuine devotion?

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Okay all you Jim Nudera detractors, the ones who want the coach de-whistled, the ones who wonder why a high school football coach with just 17 wins in six seasons still remains resolute in his job, I've got some fodder for you. Read this quote and you'll probably laugh yourself silly: "A coach's job in high school football is to help boys become men, to build them into confident, free-thinking, mature adults."

Now, read this one and you'll need morphine to numb the pain from your belly-busting guffaw: "We're here to educate kids to be solid citizens."

Stop. You're laughing so hard you're crying. Please stop, you're going to pee a little.

Okay then, I warned you. Here's the most hilarious one yet: "In high school football the most important thing is not talent, it's playing as one."

Get a hold of yourself, please! You're going to choke on your own tongue! Okay, now you simply sound like a monkey being tickled by a hyena.

Are these really side-splitting statements? Nudera is 17-37 in six seasons as head coach at OPRF. None of his teams has made the playoffs. None of his teams has bettered a 3-6 overall record. Last year, the Huskies finished 2-7. You'd think the coach would be ready to tear down a goalpost in frustration.

"Don't you find yourself getting more and more frustrated with each losing season?" I asked him last week.

"No, not at all," he replied and followed up the answer with the clichés above. I found myself frustrated. I expected Nudera to go mad from disappointment. I waited for long sighs, curse words or maybe even a growl or two.

But then I realized that Nudera isn't just teaching kids how to play high school football; he's also teaching them how to carry themselves in life after high school. He's devoted to his program. Spending night and day with impressionable teenagers for three straight days in Wisconsin during the summer proves it.

It's a time when these impressionable teenagers hear more about the antics of Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, David Terrell, and Cedric Benson's lengthy holdout than they do of anything inspiring or grounding. Good coaches have been forced to work that much harder to get the point across: Win or lose, you can still be successful in life.

Cliché, yes, but I'm willing to bet that none of the players who had to endure one or more of the 3-6 seasons is working at the car wash on rainy days. That's due, in part, to Nudera. You may find some of his statements as corny as Iowa, but what doesn't always sink in is that he's referring to future lawmakers, peace officers, healers, or social workers, etc., which, chances are, you'll come to rely on some day.

And there's nothing funny about that.


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