Some teams just believe they are supposed to win. And it is a quality that seems most prevalent in the small schools that play eight-man football, where programs like Shattuck, Laverne, Cherokee and Tipton keep rolling along from year to year.
But just how valuable is that attitude? Does it really make difference when it comes to winning and losing? Laverne coach Tim Allen said it makes a big difference.
“I’ve been on both ends of it,” said Allen, whose club is the two-time defending state Class B champion and currently riding a 28-game winning streak, but his first year at the school was a winless season.
“Winning is a habit. Just like losing is,” Allen said.
The club’s recent success rubs off on current players, he said. No one wants to be the team that drops the ball. Even kids who have already graduated come back and help keep the current crop of Tigers on the right path.
“We just work hard,” Allen said. “Winning is a habit, just like losing is. The biggest thing I see is player commitment. And it starts in the weight room.”
Players are more diligent in the offseason about staying in shape, Allen said. They take more responsibility and hold others on the team accountable if they feel they are not working hard enough, he said.
“It seems like it’s kind of a struggle nowadays. Kids are so busy with so many things going on,” Allen said. “It’s really hard to get kids where they are very disciplined about the weight room and staying in physical condition and not having that break (in the summer).
“Our expectations and our work ethic have evolved into what it is today. We are going to play hard and do the things it takes in the offseason to play at a high level.”
Tipton is looking for its fourth straight trip to the state championship game this season. The attitude and expectations to win not only exists with the kids in the program, but with the people in the community, said Tipton coach Travis White.
White thinks the town would dry up if not for Tipton football. Friday nights are special in Tipton.
“The community expects to win and know what it takes to win,” White said.
The attitude of winning and working hard gets passed from generation to generation in families in Tipton, White said.
“Tradition is huge,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that they really don’t how to lose. That mentality is definitely there.”
Shattuck head coach Tyson Bullard said such tradition, however, can also be a double-edged sword.
“It’s a tricky question,” he said. “It adds some pressure on the kids that the other schools don’t have. And in my experience, I don’t see it getting more kids out (to play football). I still have kids, even with the tradition, that play one year and the next year they don’t play.
“It probably makes more of an impact than what I am probably aware of. We are fortunate to have the tradition a lot of schools don’t have. We are going to talk about some but we are not going to hang our hat on it. We have to live up to it.”
The hard part, Allen said, is building the tradition and convincing kids they can win. He preaches that hard work can trump talent.
“It takes a while to get there with a lot of bumps in the road,” he said. “But I’ve seen it happen here. Our weight room attendance in the summer is good. The numbers we have out for football are good. Our attitudes are good. It’s a neat atmosphere. It sure makes my life easier.”