The Deacon's Bench

Football season is winding down — which makes this profile of a Milwaukee coach all the more timely, and important.

For Coach Bob Hyland, coming off a 3-7 season, winning isn’t the point:

Hyland was pleased with the effort, determination and hard work of his players. They never gave up, he said.

He uses that same principled approach to life, according to a player from one of his championship teams, Mike Friedel (class of 1976) who described Hyland as one of the most influential men in his life.

“He was very strong on fundamentals and doing the right things,” said Friedel in a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald. “Of course, the goal was to win, but he taught us if we did all the right things, the result was often good. But even if we didn’t win, as long as we did our best, that was good enough.”

Several times over his illustrious career at St. Mary’s Springs, Hyland put his principles ahead of winning when students broke team rules.

Nine years after he took over the reigns at St. Mary’s Springs, Hyland learned that some of his players had violated team rules involving alcohol. By the time the situation was sorted out, Hyland had suspended 25 players and his squad headed into a game with only 10 seniors and four juniors left on varsity.

Hyland admitted he initially thought a couple of his players broke the rules. When he learned it was a substantial part of his team, he didn’t back down.

Four years ago, he made a similar choice. Less than 24 hours before the Ledgers were to play for their second straight WIAA Division 6 title against Stratford in Madison, then-principal Robb Jensen learned from a parent that eight players had violated the team’s athletic code. Jensen located Hyland at the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay where he was practicing with the team for the championship game. They made their decision quickly rather than delaying any punishment until the following season. The eight were suspended immediately and St. Mary’s Springs lost the game 29-13.

Jensen, as quoted in the Fond du Lac Reporter, said, “I can tell you we have a coach with a lot of courage. Our mission certainly says that we’re going to do what’s right. It may look like we lost on the scoreboard, but we won today.”

Hyland described his approach in both situations. He said he tells the kids, “(Losing) doesn’t bother me. I will be here next year, but you have ruined your opportunity to be the best you can be by screwing up.”

“I know he’s a man of principle,” said Friedel, “because when he found out the kids were at a party – and alcohol is a no-no – all the kids were suspended and it cost the game. But it shows he’s about more than winning. It’s not winning at all costs.”

How great is that?

The world needs more Bob Hylands, doesn’t it?

Photo: by Sam Arendt, Catholic Herald

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