Jack Welch

JACK WELCH From the Bleachers

My high school coach, Bill Freeman, stressed players had to be willing to trade something to reach their goal. He would ask each of us, what we were willing to trade to reach our goals. In today’s credit card society and lay away lifestyle, motivating teams to strive for championships is harder than ever.

Are players willing to pay for their goal by trading time in the off-season? Will they train day after day, week after week, and month after month? Are players willing to trade the “me” attitude for the team benefit?

Championship players and teams overcome obstacles. Obstacles are time and self. Obstacles are not the other team, it is us. Players must beat themselves first, then give themselves a chance to win. Are players willing to trade the “me” attitude for the team benefit? Coach Freeman would say you might have the greatest car in the world, but if you have one flat tire, you are not going anywhere.

How many people in 1973 thought the Osawatomie Trojans would win the state 3A football title? This small Kansas football team was predicted to barely have a winning season. The team had lost its starting tailback. The returning squad was extremely limited, having a small number of players.

One thing Freeman could do exceptionally well was motivate players. He taught them to set goals and more importantly inspired them to devise a plan of action. His moxie worked well with this 1973 group of players.

Senior honorable mention all-state center, Derrick Jensen led the pack. He set a goal of being the Trojan starting tailback. His goal was to someday play in the NFL. Lofty goals for an athlete playing in the offensive line through his junior year of high school.

Jensen worked tirelessly all winter, spring, and summer prior to his senior year. He hauled hay in the heat of the summer with a 50-pound weight vest and ran sprints at night with ankle weights.

Inspired by Jensen’s leadership, other players followed suit. Because of the unselfish acts of encouragement, this group of players were consistently seen at the practice field running sprints. They would call each other to remind everyone they had voluntary workouts.

How did it turn out for Jensen and the Trojans? The Trojans went undefeated winning the state championship. Derrick rushed for over 2,000 yards and received a full-ride scholarship to Texas-Arlington. At UTA, he was a two-time All-Southland Conference MVP and was the first player in conference history to top 3,000 yards.

Jensen was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and played in 106 games, starting 21. He served as special teams captain for five seasons and contributed a blocked and recovered punt leading the Raiders to a 38-9 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII.

As for the Trojan football team of 24 players, 18 went on to play college sports (football and basketball). Coach Freeman moved on to Lawrence High School where he won an additional five state championships and was elected to the Kansas Hall of Fame.

Freeman taught his players to trade time and ego for the betterment of the team. He preached a short-term pleasure did not equate to a lifetime goal. He would ask his players if they were willing to trade time and personal ego for the benefit of the team. Championship teams are willing to trade the “me” attitude for the team benefit.

Thought for the week, “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” Bill Hammond, captain of 1973 Osawatomie Trojan football team.

Jack Welch grew up in Osawatomie. He holds a Doctor of Education degree and has been a college and high school football coach for 39 years. He is author of the book titled Foundations of Coaching (2020). He can be reached at jackwelch1975@gmail.com.

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