Charles Welde has been the offensive coordinator for the U.S. Grant football team for the last three seasons, which is a significant statement in itself. Dan Burgess is in his third season on the staff and second as head coach, providing a type of stability U.S. Grant players haven't seen in years.
It's a sign that those men, and others on the staff, are not in their positions simply for a paycheck to hold them over until the next job comes along. They're committed to improving the lives of the kids who come into their locker room at Grant.
Welde has worked at every level of football, from high school to college to professional with the Arena League's former Oklahoma Wranglers. But his career goals have changed during his time at Grant.
He recently wrote an open letter to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, its board members and some area politicians regarding proposals that have been made on behalf of U.S. Grant and Capitol Hill to become independent of the OSSAA in football. Most of the content of that letter is contained below.
Those proposals have been turned away, but here, Welde presents some facts of the struggles at a school like U.S. Grant that only exist at a very limited number of schools across the state:
By Charles Welde
U.S. Grant's futility in football has been well documented. In 2012 we won our first game in 3 years. We have never won a Class 6A district game. In 2011 we scored 16 points against Westmoore, which was a record for most points scored in a 6A district game.
When I agreed to be the team's offensive coordinator in the summer of 2010, I looked at it as an excellent opportunity to prove myself as a program builder. I knew if I could coach at Grant and be successful I would be able to move to a better school or possibly even get back to coaching college football. It took me two full seasons to realize U.S. Grant isn't about how good of a coach you are or how many games you win. It's about transforming lives.
In the 2012 off-season myself, Coach Dan Burgess, and Coach Buck Blasco made a commitment to a service style of coaching. We redefined success at Grant. Instead of focusing on raising our points per game, we were going to focus on raising our team GPA. Instead of focusing on defensive stops, we were going to focus on stopping kids from quitting school. We would emphasize work ethic and education. We also wanted to make sure every kid on our team got to eat. Our coaching staff would become the support system that a lot of our players didn't have.
Our second mission was to create a football environment. U.S. Grant is a football program with amnesia. There are no records kept anywhere, there are no pictures in the locker room of former players, and there is next to no tradition. Our goal is to change that. We started identifying alumni who still live in the area and called them to invite them to games. We reached out to businesses with U.S. Grant ties and invited them to be involved with our program. We made 500 U.S. Grant football T-shirts and gave one to every teacher in the school. In 2012, our attendance was up and participation was up. Former players started showing up at practices to talk to our team. To paraphrase Coach Burgess: “in our journey of 1,000 miles we were finally taking a step off the porch.”
The outcome on the field didn't change, but lives were changing. One thing that is always left out of the newspaper articles detailing our 60-point losses is the number of injuries our team sustains on a weekly basis. In 2012 alone we lost 3 quarterbacks to season ending injuries, and had three other players strapped to a backboard and taken to the emergency room. The difference in size and strength between our team and our 6A opponents is staggering. The fear of injury is the single biggest deterrent to football participation at our school, and the main reason we suit up 25-35 players each week instead of 60 or 70.