A Fresh Start

August 29, 2017

Luke Mertens is the new Head Football Coach for Lake Zurich (Ill.) High School, and he is promising that winning games will not be the team's sole focus.

According to the Daily Herald, Lake Zurich football experienced a hazing scandal last November, which resulted in the resignations of the school's athletic director, head coach, assistant coach and other officials. Mertens believes that teaching personal character is more important than athletic success.

"That's always been my approach,” Mertens said. “I can't tell you what my record is. I don't care what my record is. It has never mattered to me. I can't guarantee wins; I can't guarantee playing time; I can't guarantee them anything other than the fact that you will be a better person from being part of the program."

At a meeting with parents, Mertens explained his goals: making his players better people, having fun and building relationships.

"I'm challenging these parents to stop judging me by what the score is on Friday," Mertens said. "Judge me by what type of human I am and am I a good role model for your son. Don't judge me by wins or by if your son plays, because that's all what's wrong with sports right now."

Acting on their lawyers' recommendations, Lake Zurich's administrators implemented a 13-point plan, which includes points such as having adult supervision for players and ensuring that those in the athletic department "give careful consideration to culture." The athletic department also came up with a list of 15 values that were important for its student-athletes, and respect was considered the most important of them.

"I think that word would solve so many problems in our entire world, if we just learn to respect people," Mertens said. "We don't have to like everyone, (but if) we learn to understand that person and respect that person and walk a day in his or her shoes, I truly believe that would solve so many issues in our world today."

From New World Of Coaching
The key to coaching teenage athletes is realizing how to recognize these changes and then adapting to them yourself. This doesn’t mean lowering your standards or making things easier for them, but it might mean adjusting your approach and finding new ways to teach your lessons.
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