Liberty coaches construct the perfect sports team

Boston Munro, Senior Writer

WIN– that’s what every sports team strives for. However, very few can do it consistently. What separates winners from losers? How do you build the perfect sports team? These are the two underlying questions that Liberty coaches try to find the answers to.
Many people fail to realize the tremendous challenge and the sheer amount of work that it takes to even build a team, much less to win games in excess. It is a process that starts with the individual players and coaches and, depending on the commitment level of each individual, spreads its way through the entire team.
Steve Valach and Mike Smith are two coaches at Liberty that definitely know about team building and achieving greatness. Valach has headed the football team for 17 years and helped lead the Patriots to a second place finish in state in the 2009 season.
“Failure is part of life. My second year here we went 0-9. That has shaped me to look at the game as being bigger than just the scoreboard,” Valach said.
Valach has since been able to establish a clear system. He outlines the importance of having a consistent scheme, as well as having a clear message to communicate to the players.
“Every successful football program has something they’re known for. If we are known for the fly offense and the 4-3 defense, I think that’s a good thing. We have a very clear mission: to unlock greatness in the boys we coach and launch them in becoming men of action who lead with empathy and integrity,” Valach said. “We want them to develop friendships and relationships that goes way beyond winning football games.”
Valach has also altered his coaching style and made improvements to try and emulate coaches at the collegiate and professional level. He claims to have been greatly impacted by Mark Speckman, the current running backs coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Pro Football League. Speckman taught Valach the fly offense, which he still uses today as the Patriots offensive package.
“Mark was born without hands. He’s been a huge influence on my coaching. Pete Carroll has had an influence. He’s relentlessly positive. I don’t know anybody that says the key to my success was negative thinking,” Valach said.
Coach Mike Smith has been a major part of the development and success of the cross country team over the years. Similarly to Valach, Smith tries to maintain a consistent system in the cross country program from year to year.
“We try to get them more information as what to expect goal wise, and we’ve increased the background, what they can do in the offseason to maintain fitness,” Smith said.
Smith also tries to incorporate team building and cohesion into cross country despite it being an individual focused sport. He emphasizes the importance of the team captains’ roles in working with and developing the younger runners.
“We have the team captains that will work with all the kids with different activities to try and develop them and personally interact with them so that way they can try to connect it to the group,” Smith said. “Yes individual counts, but you need the individuals to get the team sport. It starts with good kids and then providing them a framework so that it’s okay to want to be good.”