John Grindrod: Remembering the most winning loser in the coaching world
Despite how hugely disappointing this football season has been for me as a Browns fan, I’m a little more excited about the sport as we approach the Super Bowl, which of course is next Sunday at SoFi Stadium. in Inglewood. , California, with a scheduled kickoff at 6:30 p.m.
As a worker, I object to the Sunday night slot game. You would think that since this is the last game of the NFL season, the league would consider, say, playing the game the night before, to allow for a little more social activity without jeopardizing the return to work on Monday. However, I’ve been waiting for this change for 56 years, so I’m pretty sure it’ll never be in the cards and my viewing record will stay intact watching it one more time.
Since I’m in the football mindset, I’d like to tell you this week a story about a coach you’ve probably never heard of who had a coaching style as unique as you might think. will probably never see.
Since I’ve been coaching and working with some great coaches, former Allen East Hall of Fame football coach Bill Goodwin is at the top of the list, and I’ve gone from Countless hours with College Football Hall of Fame Coach Dick Strahm, whose teams won four NAIA National Championships while writing his “Just Call Me Coach” biography, I get insight into several different coaching philosophies.
Although Coach Goodwin, much like his soon-to-be mortal Hall of Famer son Tim, 12-time state championship-winning Marion Local football coach, was specific in articulating his expectations while doing so without ranting or raving, the stereotype of a successful football manager is one who tends to be quite uncompromising in the way he prepares his troops.
Today’s brief tale isn’t really about a coach who fits that stereotype. Rather, it’s about someone who hasn’t treated every distraction off the field of play during the season as anathema to so many other coaches who require players to focus on the sport.
His name was Roland Ortmayer, who coached for 42 years at the University of LaVerne in California, a Division III school about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, before retiring in 1990. Ortmayer, who died at 91 years in 2008, had as unorthodox an approach to coaching football as anyone you’re likely to find.
While his career record of 183-209-8 would hardly be acceptable to either Goodwins or Coach Strahm, those who think the most successful coaches are the most demanding should wonder how Ortmayer’s teams managed to win 183 games.
Despite his career record, Ortmayer was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame and is considered by many former players to be one of the most influential people in their lives. Lest you think he was lazy or disinterested, Ortmayer dove into every aspect of his football program, from paving the football pitch to washing his players’ socks, jocks and uniforms to cleaning the stands after home games. Ortmayer also served as LaVerne’s athletic director, coached the track each spring, and taught as many as 10 physical education classes each semester.
His coaching philosophy was distinctly un-Bill Belichick-ian, that winning should never come at the expense of fun. While Ortmayer was certainly trying to win, he refused to worship at the altar of victory and was genuinely okay with the outcome after one game.
During his tenure, there were no long practices. His started at 3:45 p.m. and always ended at 5:30 p.m. sharp, and, understand, training was not compulsory! If there was a player who needed to study for a big test or had a homework due or even one who had girlfriend issues or another who just needed a sanity day, he could take a day off.
Every day, between six and fifteen players were missing. The one who showed up was Ortmayer’s coach. After all, he thought, it was the players’ decision to play, not his.
Other unconventionalities included the lack of mandatory off-season bodybuilding, which he considered absurd, as there was enough physical exertion on a daily basis for his young proteges that any artificial attempt to create even more exertion be superfluous. Additionally, Ortmayer had no playbook, feeling he was using limited creativity. He simply made his team play the plays that the players knew in training, at least the players who were there!
Former players often stayed in touch with Ortmayer over the years, sharing their occasional successes and failures with the man many considered so influential. In a Sports Illustrated feature by Ortmayer that appeared in the College Football Preview Edition in 1989, available online at SI.com, in the “Sports Illustrated Vault” if I piqued your interest today , perhaps the title of writer Douglas A. Looney’s article describes Ortmayer both succinctly and aptly, “A Most Unusual Man.”
So as you fill your plate with football and listen to the impassioned exhortations of preaching coaches, as former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards once said so sternly in a post-game presser, “You play to win the game”, please think in passing of Ortmayer, indeed, given the stereotype of his profession, “a most unusual man”.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, freelance writer and editor, and author of two books. Contact him at [email protected]