Monday, April 21, 2014 · 4:12 a.m.

Despite my aforementioned lack of a college football team that I can truly call my own, I really do like football. I've been a fan of the San Francisco 49ers since I was in first grade, played rec football in my elementary and middle school years, and spent hours and hours playing football with my friends after school as a teenager. 

When I got to high school, I focused my attention on baseball, while many of my friends joined our school's football team. Our team was good, and the players and coaches were proud of our program's winning tradition. And by "winning," I mean more than just winning games. Our football coaches won the hearts and minds of the players in a positive and productive way. 

Not only was our team highly successful, but they played with class. The coaches saw to it. No matter how decisive a victory, they showed other teams respect. But even if the team hadn't been as successful on the field, the players and coaches could hold their heads high knowing they played and coached the right way.

Sadly, that viewpoint isn't shared by all coaches. Winning is everything in the eyes of countless coaches, and as recent events in Marion County have reminded us, some will do anything to win—no matter how unscrupulous, unethical or illegal.

In case you missed it, two Marion County assistant coaches allegedly vandalized their own school's fieldhouse in an attempt to motivate their players and humiliate rival South Pittsburg. Another coach was accused of breaking into South Pittsburg's fieldhouse and stealing play sheets. Coaches also allegedly broke TSSAA rules by paying former South Pittsburg running back Raquis Hale to practice with the team in order to help the team get ready for a game with their rival. Soon after, three Marion County coaches were relieved of their duties, and two were arrested; head coach Mac McCurry resigned. An investigation is ongoing.    

With the season over for most local teams—except, perhaps fittingly, South Pittsburg, who is still playing for the state championship—it might be a good time for all coaches and players to pause and reflect.

A high school football team is an extension of a high school. Students go to school to learn, not to fulfill a coach's selfish desires or unfulfilled dreams. Coaches have an opportunity to teach their players far more than just how to win football games. They can teach them about dedication, perseverance, integrity and sportsmanship. Players can learn about setting goals and working hard to achieve them. And that success isn't success if it isn't earned—that a victory gained through cheating isn't a victory at all. And about the importance of losing gracefully. 

Not all kids are going to take their football careers to the next level after high school, but they all will take the lessons they learned with them. 

Coaches: What lessons are your players learning?

Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) news, culture and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.

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