What makes these teams successful?

What is it that makes teams like Santa Fe, La Habra and Whittier Christian, or any program that wins regularly, successful?

Do they have better coaching?

Or do they just have more talented players year in and year out?

Is it their philosophies concerning whether to run or pass or stay balanced offensively?

How much does luck with staying healthy play in the overall picture?

And which carries more weight in evaluating a team’s success: a winning record, or perhaps a .500 record but playing tough, exciting football every week?

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  • Highlander Fan

    Whittier Christian?
    They haven’t won long enough to be mentioned in the same class as SF & LH.
    I think it’s coaching. At this level coaching is everything.
    They establish a good teaching foundation which leads to winning and winning leads to acquiring more talent. Etc.
    Just one mans opinion.

  • J


    Recuruiting is the first things that comes to mind.
    Appearance- what kind of student are there
    Parents- will decide if the school deserves their player.
    Money- Does the booster have money for anything they need
    Coaching- would be last because if they were that good, they coach in a college program.

  • murray

    Yo, Highlander fan:
    It sounds like you’re determining the success of a program by whether it wins. And to a degree, I suppose you are correct. However, there are some who feel programs in which those who play and coach the game correctly in terms of such things as respect, attitude, commitment, technique and effort should be considered successful programs despite their won-lost record.
    As for your’s being “just one man’s opinion,” that’s what all these are. And they all count, one way or another.
    Glad you expressed yours.

  • murray

    You raise some interesting points:
    Recruiting, while not normally associated with high school athletics, unfortunately is coming to the forefront more every day.
    Appearance, the image a student/athlete projects also is becoming more important, although perhaps moreso at the college level than in high school. Obviously, excess baggage is not attractive at any level, and recruiters are more sensitive these days.
    Parents: Too often they are too ill-advised to make such decisions and are influenced by personal agendas and egos. Tragic.
    Money, whether from the boosters’ club or the school district, upscale facilities are a natural drawing card for any athlete. Nothing wrong with that.
    Coaching? This is one area I disagree with you. Good coaches who are committed to the high school level are among a dwindling number, but their value to a young student/athlete’s future is immeasurable. I’ve never known good coaches to screw up bad athletes, but I’ve known bad coaches who have screwed up good athletes.
    Wow! A rather longwinded response. Hope you’re still awake.

  • Kirk

    As a regular reader of the Whittier Daily News, I enjoy the passion everyone expresses about prep sports, especially football.

    As the station manager for the public access station in Los Alamitos, I am about to start my ninth season of covering Los Al football. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about “big time” high school football.

    In Los Al’s case, the coaches make one hell of a difference. Head Coach John Barnes runs a tight program and doesn’t suffer fools lightly.

    Last year, some of the top players were caught in an “inappropriate” situation. They were gone, no questions asked. Los Al muddled through the season, losing in the first round of CIF.

    Winning means a lot to many schools, but Coach Barnes and his staff have high standards for the players. Better to play hard, play your best and lose with dignity than to win at all costs.

    And I’ve run across some opposing schools that will try damned near anything to win at all costs.

    Recuiting? It seems more related to parents trying to get their kids in a high profile school than the school recuiting the kids.

    I can tell the parents with high expectations. They’re the ones buying copies of every game to send to college recruiters. I always wonder if the player has the same enthusiasm as Mom and Dad.

    Money. Yeah, big programs get big money. No doubting that. But… seems like the school district or the school gets the revenue side of the equation, while each sport program and booster club bears the burden of costs.

    That’s my two-cents worth from down south. While I’ve got the chance, of the schools Los Al has played against in the reader area, there are some class acts. La Habra, Bishop Amat and St. John Bosco have always treated myself and my crews well whenever we’ve covered their games.

    Thanks again.

  • murray

    Yo, Kirk,
    Two lines in your response best sums it all up:
    “Better to play hard, play your best and lose with dignity, than to win at all costs.”
    And, “I always wonder if the player has the same enthusiasm as Mom and Dad.”
    E’nuf said.
    Well said.

  • Highlander Fan

    I really enjoyed reading your post. You have some great insights, and made some valid points.


  • Taylor Boyd

    Well the best what to view if a program is a great program year in and year out is the amounts of wins. But a large tell is if they can win with no a little talent. The best programs can still be at least good if they dont have as much talent.
    But at the high school level Coaching and attitude is the biggest thing. SF has good coaching but there attitude is unmatched. I played them for four years and I hated their swagger but you had to respect them.
    One last thing that makes them also ways dangerous is there speed. They are the best program that had married there track team to there football team. After watching one game on them you can figure out what plays they are going to run. But they have more speed then any one out there. But if they run into a team that has more then they will lose. And LH uses there pop warren football program well.
    What do you think of the Murray?

  • Anonymous

    When talking about good programs the one’s listed above are great; Santa Fe, La Habra, I don’t think Whittier Christian is quite there yet. What is the criteria for this question? There are only two teams in the Del Rio League that has had any kind of success in the playoffs the past 4 to 5 years, thats Santa Fe and La Serna! I understand that Santa Fe has one 4 or 5 consecutive league championships but they have only played one more game than La Serna every year. La Serna has been to the quarter finals the past three years and Santa Fe has been to the semi final 4 out of the past 5 years. Should La Serna be a program on this blog?

  • Chieftain Alumni

    I think that everybody has made very valid points about the area programs and you can combine any combination to validate them but in regards to Santa Fe. While Jack Mahlstede is an area living legend and has assembled a very good coaching staff on all three levels the one unsung person of his staff has to be Coach Bob Costa. And I almost hate to write this because I know hed like to keep it that way but this man lives and breaths Santa Fe football and can honestly be considered the heart and soul of it. Not only is he out there coaching but on any given off night you can find him at other area games scouting to make sure nothing gets missed. And he truly cares about each and every one of Santa Fes student athletes and has instilled in them his open door policy to come and talk to him pretty much 24/7. And if that isnt enough on any given day you can drive behind the school and see him out there watering the grass. As a former SF player from the darker years I sure wish we had a Coach Costa when I was there!!!

  • MD4evr

    What makes these teams successful? Well these post make good sense…But, which of these teams have won cif titles? The only way to gage their true abilities and talents are play/schedule schools like Los Al, Lakewood, St John, and so forth.. It’s easy to successful in a weak league(S)..

  • Valleyfootball

    Good point MD4evr, Lots of schools have success due to the weak league(s) they are playing in… Some fail to schedule power teams as you mention. I also beleive that only then will their true character appear… In regards to their athletic abitiies and coaching, they should all evaluate the current level at which they are they actually playing … Oaks Christian is a fine example of being a nationally rated team. They are playing in a D12 league? and have yet to schedule or play such teams as, LB Poly, MV, Notre Dame, Etc. It makes one wonder?


    I agree with everyone about what it takes to make teams succesful! But before we try to over analyze everything the most important element that makes teams successful and makes coaches so great is talent! If you do not have talent you can coach all you want, game plan all you want, but with no talent you will not be successful. When you play football the objective is to win everything else is secondary!! In Lou Holts book when he was coaching at William and Mary he stated that he had a good program but he also said that he had too many “MARRY’S and not enough William’s”! That said Talent is what makes teams successful you can look and any team right now and the teams that are winning are the teams with Talent! Late!!

  • murray

    Chieftain Alumni,
    No question about Bob Costa’s impact on the Santa Fe athletic program. And while he would be the last to aknowledge it, coach Jack Mahlstede would be the first to do so.

  • Chieftain Alumni

    Mr. Murray
    You are so right about Coach Mahlstede being the first acknowledge how valuable Costa is to his program. I know Santa Fe is yet to win a ring but there is no denying that Santa Fes program is a successful one. Just about everything mentioned in this blog can be attributed to their success and while they have been blessed with some very talented athletes over the past year its men like Mahlstede and his committed coaching staff that get the very best out each and every athlete on the team year in and year out. We have to keep in mind that these schools dont get to choose what league they play so you have to look at the level of competition in preseason to get and idea of just good a team is. Look at Rosemead last year. They were running around with t-shirts that said the perfect season 10-0 only to get beat by La Serna (7-3) in the first round of the playoffs 21 – 6.