All eyes are ahead

Wogomon, Sharpe great hires for high school football.
Posted on Feb. 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Feb. 21, 2013 at 5:46 p.m.

bill beck

side lines

Loyalty and commitment are related to a point, but they are entirely different concepts. Yet too often, especially in high school and collegiate sports, they’re entwined as one.

They shouldn’t be confused as the same thing.

There are those who might view Tom Wogomon leaving Wawasee to jump to Northridge, a Northern Lakes Conference rival, as a move lacking in loyalty.

Others may think the very same thing about David Sharpe, a Jimtown assistant and son of long-time Jimmie coach Bill Sharpe, who left this week for Northern State Conference rival Glenn.

People who think along those lines are wrong. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Each man — great hires for their schools, by the way — are fiercely committed to their families. Not football. They left their current positions to enhance their lives and the lives of their families.

Wogomon got his first head coaching post at Wawasee.

Sharpe was born and raised as a Jimmie and played for Jimtown.

That’s loyalty.

Wogomon and Sharpe, though, are freely committed to their new schools.

Make no mistake about it. Neither should relinquish personal loyalties to their previous schools, but those loyalties won’t distract them as they immerse themselves in fresh surroundings.

Wogomon will quietly pull for Wawasee this fall, except in Week 4 when his Raiders and his former Warriors meet.

And there’s no doubt Sharpe will always hold Jimtown in high regard — his mentors and colleagues are still there. But when the Falcons and Jims play in Week 2, it’ll be all business.

Remember, don’t confuse loyalty with commitment.

“It’ll be just another game. It’s got to be. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids,” Sharpe said this week. “We’ll be competing for two hours every year. Making anything more of it takes away from the game.

And both coaches will spend the next six months building new relationship and forming firm bonds.

The Xs and Os are a big part of their new football landscape, especially at Northridge, where winning football has been a challenge for 40 years.

In the eyes of each coach, gaining trust from the players is first and foremost.

“There’s a lot of time between now and the middle of August,” Sharpe said. “I want to bond with them, I want to be there for them, I want them to succeed. I’ll be ready to help them.”

The same goes for Wogomon who, at least for this year, will remain on the Wawasee teaching staff while he prepares the Northridge football squad for Friday nights.

Wogomon, whose family lives in Middlebury and attends Northridge schools now, reminded me of a conversation we had in 2009 as he began his third season at Wawasee. In the previous two seasons, the Warriors won just four games, but he felt they were ready to turn the corner.

I’m always concerned when coaches remember four-year-old conversations, but I must have noted something Wogomon thought was worth remembering.

I’ll have to mark this week down in my iPhone just in case it ever happens again.

“I remember you and I talked down there at the Jimtown picture day,” Wogomon recalled, “and you said, ‘You know what? Now you own it. You own these kids now.’ If there’s anything in looking at that statement you made is I think it is getting to know your kids. I’m not going to proclaim to be a great X and O guy, but I do know my kids. That’s the imprint that we’ll be moving forward (with) from here on out.”

Getting fully involved with Northridge kids is one goal of Wogomon’s. The other is reminding them, in every way possible, that the current Raider players aren’t to be held responsible for nearly four decades of non-winning stigma on Friday nights.

It remains the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

“Winning success at Northridge has not come easy. If the kids can understand that they don’t own the past as far as what’s happened at Northridge football,” Wogomon said. “They really don’t own the past. We’ve got to get that in their heads. What they need to do now is look to the future. We need to own the future from this day forward.

“They need to take the positives, the learning experiences, that character that’s been built, knowing Coach (Jonathan) Kirkton coached sound fundamentals ... he is absolutely a man of character and people can’t forget that,” he said.

All eyes are ahead. For Wogomon, his new players in Middlebury as well as his former players in Syracuse.

Loyalties will remain, though they’re threaded in the past. Commitment and its bond — for David Sharpe and Tom Wogomon — is now.

That’s the way it should be.

Contact Bill Beck at bbeck@etruth.com and on Twitter @eTruth_Sports

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