ONE ON ONE: A Quitter Never Wins, A Winner Never Quits

"One On One" Sean Walsh Sports Editor

“One On One”
Sean Walsh
Sports Editor

There is no worse feeling in life than looking back with regret.

“I could have been that person…”

“That could have been my touchdown…”

“I could have beaten that guy…”

“I really should have played…”

The one thing I always tell my players – after nearly three decades of coaching teenagers – is that you only get to be young once. You never get to be 16- or 17- or 18-years-old again.

I’m not sure why there seems to be a recurring pattern these days that young athletes who have already tasted some form of what it means to succeed on the playing field are “okay” with abandoning the possibility of more success while still in their prime.

Ask any middle-aged man or woman who once felt what it was like to hammer a field hockey ball into the back of the net or spike a volleyball for a match-winning point or barrel their way into the end zone on Thanksgiving Day if they’d trade one day of old, aching bones and muscles to feel the exhilaration of competition even for one hour again in the physique they once possessed.

To KNOW you can do something and will your body to make it happen… There’s a vast difference between that feeling and the feeling of being able to envision glory and simply not have the synaptic impulses to pull it off.

The late, great NFL Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi could not have stated it better. Photo courtesy of

The late, great NFL Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi could not have stated it better.
Photo courtesy of

My high school football coach had a Vince Lombardi quote pasted above his office door and it is emblazoned in my mind as if it were 1984 all over again: “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”

No words could ever be more true, no philosophy more poignantly clear.

I’ve taken it to mean – for me – that second chances simply do not grow on trees. If it were up to me, every last student in every school would sign up for something, anything. The Math Team. The Drama Club. The Marching Band. The JV football squad. Cross country. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something.

In my mind, there should be no need for afterschool buses because every kid should be involved in something that will help affirm or give or create their self-esteem. It doesn’t have to necessarily be sports, but in a day and age when schools are teeming with opportunities to excel, it’s shameful anyone in a position of authority isn’t corralling kids by the car load to do something other than nothing.

Doing nothing is still a choice and it’s not a good one.

Imagine filling out a college application and having nothing to write down. You don’t have to be voted The Athlete of the Year to tie on a pair of football cleats or run 2.8 miles through the woods. Heck, with enough gumption and industriousness, you could be the founding president of your own afterschool club for heaven’s sake. Raise money for the homeless. Volunteer to help the VFW or the American Legion. DO SOMETHING!

It just doesn’t sit well with me when a conscious decision is made to not be involved. It’s yet another piece of the very real argument that America is losing the right to claim it is the greatest country in the world. I honestly can’t even remember all of the jobs I worked at during high school in addition to playing sports. Was it difficult to study going to practices after school and then washing dishes until 10:30 pm? Of course it was!

I can remember barely being able to hold my head up in my bedroom to solve some Algebra problem or read just one more sentence of A Catcher in the Rye which I originally anticipated being a book about baseball but forced myself to continue reading out of a sense of duty when I discovered it most assuredly was not.

I read somewhere recently that schools should start later because teenagers simply cannot physiologically go to sleep before 10:00 or 11:00 pm.


Try being run into the ground at football practice until your feet bleed inside your cleats and then scrubbing encrusted food off of plates until 10:30 pm and then ripping your hair out trying to write complete sentences in French and see if you can keep your eyes open when 11:00 pm rolls around.

Too many distractions. Computers aren’t tools, they are toys. Cars are toys. Cell phones are toys. High-definition movie-screen size televisions with 800 channels are TOYS. Could your 16-year-old create a fire in the woods to keep him or herself warm if they had no matches and were going to freeze to death?

We are creating generations of adolescents who need to be entertained 24-7. I can’t tell you how many weirdos I hitchhiked rides from to get to that restaurant after football practice, five miles from school, just so I could make it on time to scrub plates and pots. I certainly wasn’t worried about what my Twitter feed was saying. It’s making me feel like I was the exception and not the rule and it shouldn’t be that way.

Are all of our children by birth borne royal characters whose hands cannot be sullied by hard work?

At a base minimum, any school athletic program that complains of not having enough kids to participate should be ashamed and take a good look in the mirror.

Eliminate extracurricular activities fees. Make the kids raise the funds for the program, not the parents. Or simply, eliminate the program. Don’t let some rich sugar-daddy pay the tab “for the kids.” Make the kids earn it and I can guarantee you they will never let it go once they do.

In 1893, there were roughly 20 male students at Barnstable High School.

Warren R. Bowen, a mustachioed upper classman, took it upon HIMSELF to form a high school football team in the fall of 1893. He recruited 11 players in addition to himself to play “foot-ball.” Barnstable High played ONE GAME that first season and lost to Sandwich High School. Its next scheduled game was against New Bedford but as some 275 fans and players waited for New Bedford High to get off the train that November Saturday afternoon in Hyannis, no team got off the train. There would be no second game in the fall of 1893. But did Bowen and his trusty 11 teammates give up on their idea to have a football team? Heck, they didn’t even have a coach! Bowen was the captain and coach and manager himself!

Bowen took it upon himself to take out an advertisement in the Barnstable Patriot newspaper that asked if any businesses would be willing to sponsor HIS IDEA. He raised $14.50 by the time he was done and what the future high school principal succeeded in doing has lasted for 123 years.

Those are the types of things that are missing from the greater American community today; the industriousness to just do something and stick with it.

I think the 6,000 football players who came after Bowen at Barnstable High were sure glad Bowen didn’t give up.

And all it took was an idea and the willpower to say “you know what, I can do this.”

— Sports Editor Sean Walsh’s column “One on One” appears here weekly. His email is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm

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  1. I like it!!! My son worked all through high school, played golf and baseball, was in model UN, all while maintaining good grades at the areas most academically challenging high school. It served him well, 6 for 6 in college acceptances. This article is spot on.

  2. Great article!

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