Posted: Tuesday, July 10th 2012 at 1:01pm
Opinion: New Spartans head man treading path familiar to all coaches
By Chris Lee
Despite the tremendous amount of respect we have for the successful football coaches we have in our community, we hold them to a different level of scrutiny than we do any other job on a high school staff.
Not only do we expect coaches to sculpt their students into respectable young men -- men that go on to become fathers, members of the community, etc. -- but we also expect them to win games. And not just occasionally; if any coach loses more than 50 percent of their games for an extended period of time, we consider him to be “on the hot seat,” despite the obvious influence they have on our young men.
Not only do we expect coaches to be important role models as well as masterminds on the sidelines, but we also expect them to be better at it than any coach they might play against on any given Friday night.
Very few other jobs in education -- or anywhere, really -- are held to that kind of standard. We don’t expect our kids’ math teacher to be better than any other math teacher we compare them against in the state. We only expect them to help us teach our children how to fulfill their potential. Thus, coaches have to strike a balance between their expectations. Booster clubs enjoy winning. Parents enjoy seeing their young men grow up. Certain football dads, 50-50.
This balance is exactly why Tony Lotti, new head coach for the West Hall Spartans, is so excited to take the helm this coming season. Lotti’s resume is an impressive one, starting as a Division II All-American in his collegiate playing career for Tennessee Wesleyan College. Named 2002’s “Assistant Coach of the Year” by Kudzu Life Magazine, Lotti has built several programs into playoff contenders as an assistant, including Union Grove High in McDonough and Woodland High in Stockbridge.
But it is Lotti’s successes off the field that he finds most valuable. Lotti’s focus on building lifelong character in his players has helped him create a more fulfilling career and, ideally, more fulfilling lives in the young men he coaches. Given the choice between helping his young men develop and winning games, which would he choose?
“Both, ideally,” said Lotte with a chuckle, “but more so the first one. Everything that goes with the program is centered on producing quality young men that become productive members of society that become good husbands and fathers.”
He really does mean “everything.” From his hire in January, Lotti has fully immersed himself in the West Hall community, learning about and looking out for his student-athletes before he’d even seen a roster. Lotti, who has written two semi-fictitious novels about football’s power to inspire youth, began working on his kids’ character from day one, and cites it as one of his most highly valued aspects of his opportunity as a coach. “Teach the kids to do right,” said Lotti in an interview Friday. “That’s sort of our slogan -- it’s on our shirts -- ‘Do right, and right follows.’ That’s the main thing.”
Lotti understands where this team is coming from, and has a plan for the future.
“It’s funny,” said Lotti, “[Legacy] is one of the things I wanted to talk to the kids about. We have 20 returning players; not a whole lot, we’re normally used to 28 or so. Coming into the season, we can’t say that we want to be the best team ever, there’s always going to be a team better than us, no matter the situation. We’re looking to leave a legacy in our own way. There’s already a lot of success built on the foundation at West Hall -- we’ve shown the kids some of the videos of West Hall defense dominating in the past and their successes historically."
Despite the rebuilding effort ahead, Lotti won’t forget his priorities. He still plans to develop his kids into great people, regardless of their record this season. “Perfection judges your work,” Lotti affirmed, “but I take stock from the lives these kids lead.”
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