Utah High School Football Coach Promotes Character Over Winning

In Roosevelt, Utah, a high school football coach is scoring points for standing by a principle; not a principal but a principle. Matt Labrum, head football coach at Union High School, informed all 80 players on the team recently to turn in their jerseys and gear; they were suspended for bad behavior. Most or all the players had been repeatedly disciplined for truancy, engaged in unacceptable conduct off the field (including cyber bullying), and demonstrated attitudinal problems in general.

Coach Labrum is exceptional in that, besides being aware of the players’ unacceptable behavior, he called them on it-as he did their team captains for failing to do so.

The man is a study in moral courage and integrity. He should be designated a national treasure for demonstrating what should be the norm in our culture rather than the exception.

Being a fair and principled man-His parents raised him right!-Coach Labrum took the opportunity to teach a lesson. He gave the suspended players an option: They would be allowed to play again but only after they had “earned the privilege to play.” (Note he said privilege; the coach knows that playing football is not a right. Said Coach Labrum, .” . . we need to focus on some other things that are more important than winning a football game.” (When was the last time you heard that? I love this guy!) In this case, the important thing is character.

As outlined in a letter signed by the entire coaching staff, the boys were directed to perform community service instead of football practice, attend a character education class, and elect new team captains. In another report (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/high-school/utah) the boys also were to memorize and recite to the coach a quotation on good character.

What’s surprising, even shocking given today’s entitlement culture, not only the players but also their parents have endorsed the program. It’s not punishment so much as an opportunity: It teaches personal responsibility and the meaning of manhood. It “helps us to grow up,” is how one team member put it. An approving parent said it was “an opportunity to do some good for the community and a good way to learn a life lesson.”

Perhaps these students and their parents are more enlightened than most; certainly this coach is. Still, some coaches elsewhere in the state reportedly “feared” Labrum’s method was “too extreme.” Really? Learning good character is extreme? Extremely rare, maybe. If these coaches “fear” something of such fundamental consequence, maybe they should examine their own character. In fact, the vast majority of comments on this story favored Labrum’s decision; one even suggested that Labrum should coach the Detroit Lions. (It seems the Lions are the “poster team” for bad conduct these days. Cornerback Aaron Berry’s contract was just terminated after his second arrest in a month, this time on three counts of assault. Other Lions players are still on the team despite not being model citizens themselves: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, running back Mikel LeShoure, and offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath have also been arrested on various charges. And defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in a poll of 111 players, has been voted the dirtiest player in the NFL for the second straight year. Maybe a position as offensive tackle would be more appropriate for him.)

Judging by this rogues’ gallery of thug athletes we can conclude that they, like so many others in sports, entertainment-and on the streets-never had a Coach Labrum in their lives. If they had, they (and the rest of society) would be a lot better off.