Lessons learned | News, Sports, Jobs
Almost 12 years ago, I walked into a locker room that the Southwest football team occupied in what was then called Ralph Wilson Stadium. I was looking for Trojans head coach Jay Sirianni, who had just watched Fredonia pull off a stunning 12-10 upset in the Class C Division VI championship game, breaking Southwestern’s record 38 game streak in the league. western New York.
I thought his answers to my questions would be short, even terse, because, well, the Trojans’ opportunity to continue the pursuit of a third straight state championship had ended the way the more heartbreaking, thanks to Hillbillies quarterback Shane Smith. 10 – yard touchdown pass to Tyler Buckley with 25 seconds left.
I was wrong.
Here is what Sirianni says:
“I tried to tell those kids that they were part of something that no other team in Western New York history has ever done. … We lost a football game. C is bound to happen. You don’t want to end your season at Ralph Wilson Stadium with a loss, in a Divisional Championship game, but there are far worse ways to end your season.
“We played all the way, our kids left it on the pitch and Fredonia made the plays they needed to make to win this game. That’s how a league game should be.
Before we parted ways, Sirianni offered this:
“I’m just thinking about what somebody at school has in their office,” he said. “He says, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ I think it’s appropriate.
Sirianni stood in front of a group of high school students in a room at the Northwest Arena in Jamestown last Friday morning. The teens, from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Warren counties, Pennsylvania, were participating in the 14th Annual Sportsmanlike Symposium on Sportsmanship.
Organized by the Frewsburg Varsity Club and the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association, the event brought together 225 athletes, coaches, athletic directors and chief school officials from 25 school districts. According to a press release, each of the athletes in attendance, who were mostly sophomores and juniors, were chosen for their ability to “Illustrate and Influence” sportsmanship within their respective communities. Among the objectives of the event, titled “Life Lessons in Sport” was to examine what great life lessons athletics can teach someone.
Sirianni had plenty of examples.
During his nearly 50-minute presentation, the Southwest social studies professor and boys’ athletics coach – he resigned as the Trojans’ college football coach after the 2014 season – spent passionately reviewing the three life lessons sport has taught him – family first, perseverance, and “Sport is not everything.”
Next, Sirianni spoke about the core values his brother, Nick – the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles – teaches his National Football League team, including the importance of connecting, of competing, of being responsible and to have knowledge and fundamentals.
“I am very proud of my brother” Sirianni said. “I’m really proud of where he comes from. I’m really proud of the fact that he’s the same guy. He doesn’t change what he does. Everything he does can be rooted in Jamestown, New York and Chautauqua County.
To illustrate the point, Sirianni showed videos of Nick speaking to his Eagles players, explaining why these core values are so important.
“You may not be an NFL coach”, Sirianni told the students, “(but) maybe you’re going to be a CEO, maybe you’re going to be a manager, maybe you’re going to be a lawyer, maybe you’re going to be a doctor, maybe you’re going to work in construction , maybe you’re gonna be a teacher, maybe you’re gonna be a husband, wife, father, mother Whatever you do later in life, what you learn right now should stay with you .
Sirianni also suggested that success shouldn’t be measured by winning championships.
“You’re just working towards your potential,” he said. “Once it’s all done, remember these three life lessons I learned. Family is the most important thing, perseverance will get you through very difficult times… and sport isn’t everything. They take you to places, but they are not everything.
By way of illustration, a “I feel sorry for myself” Sirianni remembers returning home from that football loss to Fredonia nearly a dozen years ago, where he met his daughter, Bella, who was 3 at the time.
“She said to me, ‘Dad, great season, you can’t win them all’, and she was right.” Sirianni said. “As bad as I felt, it made a lot of sense to me.”
Sportsmanship can and does begin at an early age.
It should also last a lifetime.