Football: Maintaining perspective in the face of trial
October 10, 2012
Ernie Monfiletto stood behind Rippee’s Rock Friday night, his team reeling from a sequence of events that literally stole victory away from a group of kids he’s watched buy into everything he’s implemented since taking over the Douglas football program last January.
It’s the type of moment that defines programs, coaches and character.
Adversity, after all, reveals integrity, or lack thereof, better than nearly any force on the planet.
His team had just been dealt its fourth loss in five games after opening a season so strongly that some outlets had it ranked tops among all programs in the region.
This one particularly stung because of how it ended –with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Associaton saying Monday that if not for several errors on the part of the officiating crew in the final five seconds, Douglas walks away victorious.
Visibly frustrated, there are a few directions Monfiletto easily could’ve gone with his reaction.
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It was then that Monfiletto showed he is, first and foremost, an educator.
“This is life,” Monfiletto said to his team directly after the game. “Sometimes unfair things happen that you can’t change. What’s important is how you respond to it.”
In one breath, the new coach conveyed that, yes, it is just a game. And it’s a game that can teach grander lessons about living in the adult world.
That you can put everything you have into something and still come up short.
That you can do everything in your power to sway a situation your direction, and that many times, the outcome is still out of your control.
That the people running the show make mistakes too and, sometimes, the mistakes are irreparable. But, those people are still in charge. And you still have a job to do.
“Ernie is a class act,” Douglas athletic director Jeff Evans said. “We’re very proud to have him on our staff. How he represents himself is how we want to represent the school.
“He’s just a fine example of what a coach should be. That’s what makes moments like Friday night so difficult, because he is the way he is. And the kids are about as good a group as we’ve had come through here in quite a while.”
Taking care of the small things has been a point of emphasis for the Tigers this season. It’s a mantra easy enough to preach, and even easier to leave unsubstantiated.
But Monfiletto applied it directly — unwaveringly — last week, as he has all season.
NIAA officials earlier this week praised his handling of the situation and his response since. They acknowledged that Friday night’s outcome was a tremendous setback to the Tigers’ playoff hopes and that Douglas had every reason to be frustrated with the outcome.
Instead of focusing on what might have been, Monfiletto immediately shifted his team’s focus toward the future. Instead of stepping back to lick his wounds, he issued his team a direct challenge.
“I’ve got no coward in me,” he said, “How about you? I don’t think you have any in you. It’s time we show it.”
He was quick to point out that games aren’t won or lost on one or two plays. That converting a fourth down 60 seconds earlier, or making even one more defensive stop in the first half removes any doubt from the final outcome.
Again, the little things.
Friday night, the scoreboard showed a devastating, even unjust, loss for Douglas High. But scoreboards, like many things in life, fade quick enough.
Quietly, far away from the crowd, Monfiletto scored the more important victory of the night.
It easily could have been a panic-button moment for a new coaching staff and a young team.
Instead, it could turn out to be a landmark for the program moving forward.