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Schmidt feels team better than 0-10 - Considers himself area for improvement

 

Last updated 12/15/2006 at Noon



Patrick Schmidt knew that he’d have a rebuilding project when he took over as the head coach of Fallbrook High School’s football team. He didn’t expect the team to go winless in his first season as head coach.

“Anybody could do that job,” he said of coaching the team to a record of 0-10. “That wasn’t what anybody expected, and I certainly didn’t expect it.”

The possibility was discussed by the interview panel which hired him; Schmidt was asked whether he would return the following year if Fallbrook had an 0-10 record. “I was startled by the question,” he said. “I just couldn’t conceive of it.”

Schmidt thought that at some point the team would win a game, but several factors worked against the Warriors. Schmidt was named to the position in June to replace Dennis Houlihan, who had coached the Warriors for five seasons but resigned unexpectedly in May. Schmidt not only lacked a spring practice session with the team, but he also had to assemble a new coaching staff which had not previously worked together. While Schmidt praised the senior leadership on the 2006 team, the actual number of seniors was small and the team had lost nearly three dozen seniors from the 2005 squad, which finished 5-6.

“The circumstances there were more difficult and more challenging than even I had estimated,” Schmidt said.

Fallbrook opened its season September 1 at San Clemente, and on the first play of the game the Warriors lost their free safety to an injury. “I felt like I was behind all year long,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt acknowledges the adverse circumstances but refuses to make excuses. “Everything is eligible for improvement, including my performance,” he said.

“We didn’t live up to our expectations,” Schmidt said. “That has to be a reflection of the coaching staff.”

Schmidt notes that as the head of the coaching staff the responsibility of failing to meet expectations rests with him. “That’s a reflection of the job that I did,” he said. “I firmly believe we are not an 0-10 team.”

A winless first season doesn’t prevent a coach from correcting that in the future. Current Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green lost his first 14 games as the head coach of Northwestern University, including an 0-11 season with the Wildcats in 1982. Lou Holtz took over the University of South Carolina football program in 1999 and was winless that year but led the Gamecocks to the Outback Bowl the following season.

“Maybe I need to call Denny,” said Schmidt, who played college football at UCLA in the 1970s and played for the Chicago Blitz of the United States Football League while Green was coaching Northwestern. “I need to talk to Lou Holtz, too.”

One improvement which will be made is that Schmidt began focusing on the 2007 season last month. He now knows more about his players, and he will preside over spring practice. “We’re now in a more typical situation,” he said.

“We now have the opportunity and a little bit of time on our side,” Schmidt said. “We’ve got an opportunity to establish a culture there, which is what we’re going to do, and that culture is going to be based on character and we’re really going to embrace strong leadership and we’re going to make sure the kids understand the values we are looking for.”

The objective of football is winning, and the appropriate values include an effort to win. Despite the won-loss record, Schmidt was still pleased with his players. “Our kids played hard,” he said. “There’s a lot of victories that aren’t necessarily reflected on the scoreboard, and we had many victories.”

Players don’t enjoy losing, but the team members appreciated playing. “The kids truly enjoyed each other,” Schmidt said.

One element of character is response to adversity. “We’re disappointed. We’re not discouraged,” Schmidt said. “Losing like that breaks you down.”

Schmidt noted that being broken down is often part of rebuilding. “We needed to be broken down,” he said.

“This is extremely motivating,” Schmidt said of the 0-10 season. “I’m almost enjoying the fact that we’re 0-10 because I understand it’s going to be such a powerful motivator.”

Ironically, prior to the 2005 season Houlihan had cited the team’s 1-9 record in 2004 as a motivator for the players who had experienced that taste of losing.

“I don’t think we were prepared,” Schmidt said of the 2006 season. “I think we had to suffer some adversity.”

While Schmidt praised the quality of the opponents’ play, he felt that the Warriors had control over some of the situations. “We felt like we beat ourselves,” he said. “We just made too many mistakes to beat good teams.”

Schmidt is the founder and president of a successful Temecula business, and he notes comparisons between the football field and the business world where companies must be successful against competitors who utilize honest and other means. “In football we have a regularly scheduled opponent showing up there every week,” he said. “We’ve got to be prepared for it.”

Schmidt and his family prayed about the Fallbrook coaching offer before he accepted the position. “I’ve also come to understand why God has called me here, and I think that is to promote leadership,” he said. “The community is going to be proud of this football program at some point in the future.”

That requires the right type of players. “You’re going to have to buy into the entire program,” Schmidt said.

That program includes various values, but it places an emphasis on winning. “That’s what we’re there for because we’re preparing these kids to compete in life,” Schmidt said.

As for the answer to whether Schmidt would return if the Warriors finished 0-10, that was provided when he was asked to return as head coach for 2007. “I am returning,” he said.

 

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