It's not all about wins, because I want to see improvement, I want to see the program doing it the right way, kids doing it the right way, kids going to school and graduating. That stuff's more important than winning. —Clearfield head coach Andre Dyson
Winning isn't everything — it's the only thing.
For decades, that motto, made famous (but not actually originated) by legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, has been used to inspire countless athletes and teams as they prepare to compete.
And yet its entire premise is flawed. Sure, winning is wonderful and it beats the heck out of losing. But it certainly isn't the only thing, and most coaches will begrudgingly tell you they've learned a lot more from losing than they ever did from winning.
Clearfield High football coach Andre Dyson certainly doesn't subscribe to Lombardi's immortal motto.
Make no mistake about it, though. Dyson — a former Clearfield High and University of Utah football standout who spent seven highly successful seasons as a defensive back in the National Football League — definitely wants to win as much as the next guy.
But he realizes that winning is only meaningful if you do it the right way. And that means you don't cheat, you don't cut corners and, especially at the high school level, you don't recruit kids from outside your school boundaries and you don't allow your players to get away with anything they shouldn't be doing on or off the field — no matter how good a football player they might be.
That philosophy probably makes some high school coaches around the state cringe with guilt. And it should.
Indeed, in Dyson's view, it's all about holding the young men in his program accountable for their actions at all times.
"It's not all about wins," the Falcons' fourth-year head coach said, "because I want to see improvement, I want to see the program doing it the right way, kids doing it the right way, kids going to school and graduating. That stuff's more important than winning.
"Everyone bases success on wins. Well, here's the thing — I can get wins. You want me to get wins, I can do what a lot of these other coaches do and go recruit a bunch of good players. I can go over here and go get all these kids from all these different schools and promise them the world, and I can win games. Anyone can do that, and that's what a lot of these schools do.
"But I'm not like that," he said. "I want to build, and what I mean by that is I want to improve and build a good program with kids who are good kids in the community and good kids in the classroom, so that people respect what's going on in our program. Once you get that going, the wins will come."
Don't get him wrong. This guy loves to win, and he absolutely hates to lose — indeed, he downright despises it.
But there's a right way and a wrong way to accomplish that lofty goal of winning.
"Yeah, I want to win; obviously everyone wants to win, but I want to win the right way," Dyson said. "I don't want to win (with someone else's kids) because I out-recruited you. Who cares? Who can't coach an A-plus player? Who can't win when you have kids that are bigger and just better? You don't have to be a good coach to coach talent, right? That's an easy job. What do you have to do — tell ’em go, just go play. If that's the case, you don't have to do a lot of coaching.
"Whereas if you have a lot of kids that don't really understand the game that much and don't have a lot of confidence, and you have to build it up and teach ’em a lot — yes, coaching, that's coaching."
And when that happens, it creates the kind of success that's far more valuable than what it might say on the scoreboard at the end of a game.
"I can lay my head down at night and say, 'You know what? I worked for that. I gave everything I had,'" Dyson said. "But can other coaches do that? Do they just lay down and lose their integrity as a person? Do they say, 'Oh, this kid doesn't have grades, but I'll let him play anyway because I want to win.'
"What did you teach that kid? Because a year or two from now, when he's not in your program any more and he's not running touchdowns for you, and now he's running the streets and he has no one to lean on, are you gonna give him a job? Are you gonna help him? No, you've gotta help these kids now.
"I've lost kids because either their parents or them, they don't want to understand that," he said. "But unless you own your own business and you're just gonna let your kid work under you and live with you the rest of your life, you've gotta teach ’em — especially when they're 17 or 18 years old — the value of how to deal with life when it gets hard. You can't allow them to think, 'I'm just gonna go to this school because this coach doesn't care if I'm on time, this coach doesn't care if I have grades, because he's gonna play me anyway.' OK, that tells me that coach doesn't really care about you, he cares about himself, and I think it's selfish.
"That's one thing I cannot stand. Being in it now and seeing it, that frustrates me because there are coaches that do care and I believe are not all about winning football games. Like I say, anyone can win football games if you have the right talent. You don't need to be a great head coach if you have a bunch of talent around you."
Dyson's message is simple, really. He's hoping to teach the young men in his program those priceless life lessons that will help make them better, more productive and responsible adults who will work hard, learn the importance of dedication, teamwork and sacrifice, are respectful of others and will go on to become valued members of their communities.
"Be accountable, be good people, be good students," he said of what he hopes his team members will become. "It's not all about football. I played football and I was fortunate enough to play at the highest level, but I was done at 31, 32 years of age, and not a lot of people get that far. And now what are you gonna do? Football's not life, man, it's a game, it's an opportunity just to have fun.
"And to cheat it? Hey, if I want to recruit I'll go back to college coaching, because that's what you do in college, and it's fair game. But when you've got kids from all over the place playing for you, just to try and win, I just don't get it.
"I want to see all my kids graduate," Dyson said. "When I go to their graduation, that's what it's about to me — teaching these kids to have good character, to be good citizens."
The wins have been slow in coming for coach Dyson at Clearfield. Over his first three seasons there, his teams went 2-8, 0-10 and 2-8, so some skeptics might say that his philosophy about winning is merely a cop-out brought about by his teams' lack of success.
And those skeptics would be unequivocally dead wrong.
"I tell the kids this all the time: I do this (coaching) because I want to," Dyson said. "At the end of the day, they're not going to say, 'Oh my gosh, that Andre Dyson, he was a terrible coach at Clearfield. They only won like three games while he was there.'
"No, my legacy has already been built, man. I played in the Super Bowl, I played in championship games, I've coached at the collegiate level. They're not going to remember me as a terrible high school football coach because of my record, I promise you that. There's been coaches here that, 10 years from now, nobody's gonna remember them or that I was a coach here, either. So 10 years from now, no one's gonna remember your record, but 10 years from now, if the kids that you coached are running around and getting locked up or doing bad stuff, what kind of legacy are you leaving behind?
"And that's what I want to do while I'm here," he said. "When I leave here or when the kids leave here, I want them to leave here knowing, 'You know what, I became a better football player but, more importantly, I became a better person than I was when I started there.' There's a lot of kids that are chasing the easy way out. It's hard to be disciplined when people won't accept it. It's easy to find excuses and to take the easy way out throughout your lives.
"But if you just stick to what you believe in — and I believe in myself — you don't need to change everything just to please everyone else. I'm not going to lose my integrity for a couple of wins."7 comments on this story
Indeed, instead of Lombardi's memorable motto, we'd all be better off if we remembered the words of legendary sports journalist Grantland Rice, who said, "It's not that you won or lost, but how you played the game."
And parents who've got kids in the Clearfield High program should be mighty glad that they've got a guy like Andre Dyson leading their young men and teaching them how to do things the right way.
Because with his guidance, regardless of their win-loss record on the field, they've got a much better chance of becoming winners in that most important game of all, the one called "life."