What Makes the M.A.C. Schools so … Different?

From the Sidline

As I write this, the Versailles Tigers have just won another State Football Championship, their seventh I believe.  This was a stellar year for the M.A.C. (Midwest Athletic Conference) schools, as 3 teams all fought for state championships, with 2 succeeding, Marion Local and Versailles. 

Coldwater was the State runner-up.  Congratulations to all those schools! What an accomplishment!  

This year the M.A.C. had seven of its teams make the playoffs in Football!  That is stunning!  In all sports, these teams have won an incredible 145 State Championships, and with Marion Local’s victory, that school has now won more State Football Championships than any other Ohio team, 12.

I got these statistics from the M.A.C. website.  No other conference in the State comes close to these accomplishments, none!  This got me to wondering, why? What makes this little small school conference so…..dominant ……..so different? 

Having officiated football in that conference for a number of years, I think I can shed some light on what I think makes them so darn good!

In order for High School teams to be successful, I believe you need 3 basic tenets to achieve consistent high levels:  Community support, coaching continuity, and athletes willing to work. 

With all of the M.A.C. schools, you have small communities that back their schools 100%.  Go to any game there and the stands are packed, everyone is wearing the school colors, their communities are clean, well-cared for, and the pride in who they are is evident.  The entire town’s people and businesses, large and small, share this sense of community; this is who we are, and we like it this way! 

Pride can sometimes be thought of as arrogance but having worked that league for a long time, I can tell you they are not arrogant, they are wonderful people who are so proud of where they live, and they want to show you. 

That sense of community spills over into the schools, and is transferred to the students.  They have a feeling of belonging to something, something they also want to keep up and keep moving forward.  

The second thing is coaches who stay at the school a long time.  You have to hire good people, and then give them a chance to make their program work.  Changing coaches every year, or every 3 years is not good. 

Tim Goodwin has been at Marion Local since 1999.  Ryan Jones at Versailles is the new guy at 3 years, but he had a very successful career at Troy Christian for 7 years.  Chip Otten at Coldwater has been there since John Reed passed away in 2010. 

Keeping coaches, supporting them, and allowing  them to grow the program is crucial, it gives the athletes time to understand the system, and what is expected of them. 

A good coach, no matter where they are, has this one thing in common with other good coaches:  the best players play, period.  They do not listen to the grandstand coaches who think their child should play instead of someone else.  (Case in point is the excellent program Greenville Softball Coach Jerrod Newland has created.  If you’re good, you play, if not you sit and learn to get better.  That is why Greenville softball is so successful!)

I always enjoyed the coaches in the M.A.C.  Most are very nice guys who never say much, they are too busy coaching…but they will occasionally let you know you screwed up……but they let it go…eventually!

Finally, the athletes; you have to have athletes that are coachable, willing to work, and more importantly, do the extras to become successful. 

A good athlete will accept coaching, and criticism and it will inspire them to get better. An average, or below average athlete looks for excuses. 

Athletes take a lot of what they learn from the parents, if the parent whines and complains because little Johnny isn’t playing because of (pick your excuse here), then the child athlete has a built in excuse. 

So why should he/she work harder? Even mom and dad know the whole world is against me! The coach doesn’t like me, the other kids are mean, my pants are too tight and on and on….

Once told why they are not playing, the good athlete is more than willing to try and outwork the other players; it is an inner drive that makes them want to be the best, and they will do what is necessary.  They work the extra hours in the weight room, they run that extra mile, they practice hard, with a purpose, and that is to get better.  

There is no other way to do it.  It takes sacrifice and will to accomplish greatness.   Don’t believe me? Talk to any of the Greenville Girls softball players, ask what they are willing to do, and don’t be surprised when they tell you “whatever it takes!”

After playing sports and officiating, these 3 things are what I think make teams successful.  It is through observation and talking to these athletes that I believe make these crucial to success.  You may disagree, I’m good with that, but check the successful programs and you will see all 3 of these factors play a very important part in success. 

It is really simple:  Support your school however you can, hire a good coach and let him do his job, and convince the students you have that hard work and extra effort pays off…and it does!   That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.

Commissioner Mike Stegall

Mike Stegall / Correspondent

Mike Stegall is a GHS alum and played on the Green Wave's only undefeated football team. Served 27 years as an OHSAA football official and currently serves as a Darke County Commissioner

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