I hereby nominate Matt Labrum as U.S. high school football coach of the year.
Labrum’s team hasn’t won more games than any other team. It hasn’t piled up more points or done anything extraordinary on the field. No. Labrum has earned high praise for something he did for his players because of some off-the-field behavior that Labrum deemed inappropriate.
He suspended his team until they had earned the right to take the field for homecoming week.
Labrum coaches the varsity team at Roosevelt High School in Union, Utah. The players had been showing poor attitudes, a poor work ethic and many of the players had gotten entangled in allegations of cyber-bullying of other young people.
Labrum’s response? He suspended the entire team. He told them in the locker room. The players reportedly left the locker room in tears. Their lives were “shattered,” their dreams dashed.
Too bad for that, Labrum said. He looked at the response as an affirmation of the tough love he was administering. “We looked at it as a chance to say, ‘Hey, we need to focus on some other things that are more important than winning a football game,'” Labrum told the Deseret News. “We got an emotional response from the boys. I think it really meant something to them, which was nice to see that it does mean something. There was none of them that fought us on it.”
Here’s what I think ought to happen: Every coach in America, in every sport at any level of competition should rip a page out of Matt Labrum’s “playbook” that deals with how to handle athletes who misbehave. I realize it’s too much to ask those who coach professional athletes to do this, but those who coach “student-athletes” have a model to emulate.
If there was an award for coaches who enact this kind of action against their own team, then it ought to have Matt Labrum’s name on it.
He’s my choice for U.S. high school football coach of the year.