Coaches, players determine team success
With all the commotion of new coaches and other staff members joining Linfield athletics, one question seems to always pop into my
head. Is the success of a team dictated by the players or the coaches?
Carl Swanson, coach of the men’s tennis team, was a three time all-American tennis player at Pamona College in Southern
California. Swanson has also been honored with Coach of the Year in the Northwest Conference seven times. Yet, the men’s tennis
team finished last season 0-12 in the NWC.
So some of the blame has to go to the players right? Well not quite. Andrew Batiuk finished his sophomore year playing for the
men’s basketball team as the lead scorer in rebounds in the NWC and was awarded honorable mention on the league’s all-star team.
To top that off, the basketball program was led by the longest-tenured and winningest coach in program history, Larry Doty. Yet, the
Wildcats finished last in the conference with a record of 3-13.
I know that there are a lot of aspects to a successful team such as chemistry, skillset and how coachable a player is, but who takes
the blame when the team has fallen into a losing streak? Who takes the responsibility?
To answer these questions I turned to the coaches of some of Linfield’s most successful athletic programs. Joe Smith, the head
coach of Linfield’s most winning NWC football team. Scott Brosius, the seven year head coach that helped the Linfield baseball team
win the National Division III Championships this past season.
Smith, a former All-American Defensive Back has invested more than 25 years into Linfield’s football program. As a former player at
Linfield, he and his team during his senior year went 12-1 only losing to University of Findlay in Ohio during the National Association of
Intercollegiate Athletics Division II championship game. In addition to his success as an athlete, academically Coach Smith graduated
with honors from Linfield College and went on to get his master’s degree in sports psychology at Oregon State University.
The eighth year head coach and offensive coordinator for the Linfield Football team explained that the answer isn’t as clear cut as
everyone would like it to be.
“There is no clear cut answer,” Smith said in an email. “Any successful organization, teams included, must have a unity of purpose.
All pieces and people pulling in the same direction. We believe team, excellence, attitude, and class are the four pillars of success for
Linfield football. Team is the first pillar. To have a strong team concept, there must be trust. Players trusting coaches, coaches trusting
players, and players trusting each other. If there is no trust, there is no team. Unity and enthusiasm are also necessary ingredients. If
the team fails, it is always a combined product of every member of that team, coaches and players.”
Okay. So being a successful team comes from all aspects of the team trusting each other, teammates and coaches. But what
happens when a player messes up individually? If being a unified team equals success, what should a team do about the weakest link?
If anyone knows the answer it would be Brosius. In addition to coaching Division III baseball’s National Champs of the 2013 season,
Coach Brosius has an impressive resume of his own. He attended Linfield College in the 1980s but left during his junior year as he was
picked in the 20th round by the Oakland Athletics then traded to the New York Yankees. While playing with the Yankees, the team won
three World Series titles (1998, 1999 and 2000) and Brosius won the most valuable player of the 1998 series.
“There are two types of successes,” Brosius said. “There is success through winning and there is success beyond winning. Talent
will make or break a team, definitely. The quality of the athlete is very important. Success is based on how they are performing in class
and in the community. The most important thing to do as a coach is to provide a clear expectation of the program and for the kids to
buy into that program. As a coach, you need the willingness to say ‘these are my expectations.’ In my experience, I’ve found that the
players will almost always meet the coach’s expectations. We have great students that come to Linfield that are willing to make those
Alright, so it seems like a successful team comes down to this: talent, trust. and a clear cut focus on a team’s expectations. If a
team loses a game, they lose it together. On the flip side of that, if a team has a successful season, everybody’s a winner: coaches and
By Camille Weber/ Sports Columnist