I’ve never been a coach. I’ve barely been an athlete.
But I’ve been around high school sports long enough to know the difference between a good coach and a bad coach — as well as the difference between a good program and a bad program. It actually has very little to do with wins and losses.
It has everything to do with earning the respect of everyone who comes in contact with your team. By that measure, the Stansbury football program is top-flight, even without the Stallions’ state semifinal appearance this year.
I had the chance to watch several Stansbury practices this year. While they were intense, as one would expect of a team that had state-championship aspirations, they were also filled with positive reinforcement. Rather than putting someone down for making a mistake, any yelling was a product of passionately giving instructions on how not to make the same mistake again. It was because the coaches cared so much about seeing their athletes reach their potential — which, by all accounts, they did this season.
Stallions coach Clint Christiansen is as honest a coach as I’ve ever come across in all the years I’ve been around. There is never any question about how he’s feeling after a game, win or lose. But even when he’s upset, he still is able to find a silver lining in every dark cloud — something positive he and his team can take into the next week of practice and the game that follows. It’s largely because of the mentality that there’s always something to build on that the Stallions themselves have been steadily built into one of the top programs in Class 3AA.
It’s also hard not to like the kids who come out of the Stansbury football program. Every student-athlete I’ve talked to over the past couple seasons has been nothing but respectful. (Though hearing many of them say “yes, sir” or “no, sir” is a constant reminder that I’m further removed from my own high-school years than I care to think about.)
I’m sure it will be difficult for everyone associated with the Stallions to watch Desert Hills and Pine View face off for the state championship Saturday at the University of Utah, wondering if there’s anything they could have done to get past the Thunder last week and put themselves on that stage. Having watched last Thursday’s game from the sidelines, it was less about what Stansbury did wrong than it was about what Desert Hills did right — over and over again.
The Stallions can close the book on the 2016 season knowing that they did everything they could on and off the field to be successful.
There can be only one team out of 14 Class 3AA squads that leaves the field happy at the end of its final game. Even though Stansbury wasn’t that team in 2016, they’ll be able to look back and be proud of what they accomplished.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He, and the pedometer app on his phone, would like to thank the local high school football teams for allowing him to rack up the steps while pacing the sidelines during games. Email him at email@example.com.