Since I wasn’t able to go to the Aplington-Parkersburg game last night I thought I’d drive out this morning and see the what remnants were left behind from the first ever high school football game from Iowa to be broadcast on ESPN. The only activity was a couple joggers running around the track.
The only hint production-wise was a large Musco lighting truck. Musco is an Iowa-based company whose large lighting set-ups provide temporary and permanent lighting for everything from the last presidential inauguration, features films such as Pearl Harbor, the Daytona Speedway , and currently the 2009 Little League World Series.
But there was the Ed Thomas field. Named after the long time coach of the Aplington-Parkersburg team who died a few months ago. The nickname of the field is “The Sacred Acre” and I think ESPN broadcasting the game last night as a tribute to Coach Thomas will cement in the minds of the American public that town as a symbol of what’s good about this country.
Thomas was already a well-respected icon in Iowa before his death. He was the eighth winningest coach in the the history of Iowa football and currently has four players in the NFL. That’s an impressive number since there are schools around this county who have never had in their school’s history a total of four players in the NFL. What’s more amazing is the school has less than 280 students and the population of the town of Parkersburg is smaller than some high school’s in this county.
So what sets this program apart? Books will be written about that in the future. Aplington-Parkersburg is not really a football factory. It never was intended to be one. But here are a few quotes from Coach Thomas taken from an interview I found at Momentum Media that give a hint of what made him a special person.
“I’ve always said my job is not to prepare our kids to be college athletes. My job is to make football a learning experience, and there are so many things they can learn from being a part of our team that will help them be successful later in life as a father, member of a church, or member of the community. There are so many intangibles we can teach that they can take with them.”
On a leadership class he taught to senior players:
“I talk about leaders setting an example, the responsibility of being a leader, and the idea of being a servant and a giver. I talk about standing up to do what is right when nobody else will, and letting other players know when they’re doing something wrong. I also explain the importance of being a role model—that leaders have to set the tone for other players to follow. I talk about the respect that they have to gain with other young people. I tell them that everyone might not always like you, but you should act in such a way that they respect you.”
When asked about how he defined ethics as it related to coaching:
“Ethics is doing what’s right. It’s following the rules, and teaching football the way it ought to be played. Ethics is teaching young people about sportsmanship and how to conduct themselves in a first-class fashion regardless of whether they win or lose. I tell our kids that we’re going to go out and play hard, and we want to win as much as anybody. But when the game is over, we’re going to line up, shake hands, and be gentlemen, knowing that we did the very best we could. To me, that’s all part of ethics.”