We Are the Champions: Inspiring the Championship Mindset
Posted by Kurt Stuenkel, President and CEO
February 22, 2017
I confess that I was a latecomer to the Rome High School football success in 2016. Even though the momentum toward the championship had been growing, I was not aware that a story of a great sports turnaround was occurring right here in our community. As the Rome Wolves were preparing to play for the Class 5A title against 11-time state champion Buford, I began to learn.
The background of this story is that the Rome Wolves suffered through years of mediocre performance, and this was in a community that had seen state championships from both West Rome and East Rome before those schools consolidated into Rome High. The Rome City Schools made a conscious decision to go out and find a high-performing football coach to turn the Wolves’ football program around. They found Coach John Reid, a proven winner with two high school state championships, and in just his second year at the helm, the Rome High Wolves reached the summit, beating the Buford football team in the championship game.
I watched the championship game, and I cringed when Buford ran the opening kickoff 95 yards to the Wolves’ one yard line and scored. I said to myself, “Uh oh,” and hoped that kind of start did not portend the things to come. What caught my attention is what followed after that first touchdown. The Rome Wolves executed admirably, thoroughly defeating the proud Buford squad. After the game, players were quoted as saying that the initial score was going to be Buford’s last. They told themselves and each other, “We’ve got this.” They believed in themselves and how they prepared, and they won in convincing fashion. No, it was more than that. They dominated.
Soon after that title game, I was talking about the championship with Will Byington, Director of Property Management here at Floyd. Will loves football, having been involved on the sidelines with Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson when he was at Georgia Southern University. Will also was recently named to the Rome Board of Education. And, due to his involvement with the Rome High School Boosters, he was involved in bringing Coach Reid to Rome. Will asked if I would like to meet Coach Reid. He arranged it, and Coach Reid, Will and I had a wonderful conversation about football, goal setting, values, practice and performance. Coach Reid also said some nice things about Floyd, our hospital and our support of Rome High with our athletic trainers and physical therapists. His very organized approach to coaching is inspiring. This organization and inspiration is why Rome High won. I also have to add this: As much as I love sports and competition, it is about more than just winning a game. It is trying your best, working together as a team toward a goal and executing your plan. It is the camaraderie that you establish as you work together and the satisfaction with performing well. Rome High students are experiencing this, and it is making a real difference in the lives of many. Football players’ grades are improving. Behavior problems have decreased. School spirit is at an all-time high as students, parents, teachers and the whole community have rallied together. Winning a football championship was the goal, but the real prize is all of these things.
Coach Reid produced more than a championship football team. He has greatly influenced not only the young men on his football team and inspired them to achieve what had never been done at Rome High, he also affected the entire school and community. His work to build the team, including the players and all that surrounds them, has lessons that can be applied in any organization. As the program took hold, loyalty and team spirit brought a sense of pride in everything from dress and academic performance to behavior and attitude. I can’t think of an organization that would not want those results. That’s why, when Coach Reid offered to help us if we ever needed it, I decided to take him up on his offer. I’ve asked Coach Reid to share his story with the Floyd team. Coach Reid is going to speak about building a team, establishing a culture of pride and excellence, and fostering teamwork and championship drive. I believe we can always learn from others, and who is there better to learn from than a three-time champion?