By Troy Stoops
Principal, John F. Kennedy High School - Mt. Angel, Oregon
It is an understatement to say that working with youth in today’s society is less than challenging. Public schools continue to assume increasing responsibility for preparing students for a successful and productive future. Most would agree that this responsibility in our schools has extended far beyond academics. Schools now struggle with student nutrition, getting kids to school on time, mental health issues, and basic behavioral expectations.
I am completing my 10th year as a principal in public schools. Though my teaching experience was at the high school level, prior to arriving at Kennedy High School (Mt. Angel, Oregon), I had only been in elementary and K-8 buildings. I have always felt that most high school athletic programs focused more on wins and losses than the academic priorities of high school. Upon arriving at Kennedy, Coach Traeger shared his “Lessons for Men” plan and how he implemented it into his daily practice. By occasionally stopping by his practices I quickly learned his intent and the compassion in which he approached his players and coaches. I now believe.
In just two short years, Kennedy High School has seen immeasurable personal growth in our young men, both on and off the field. This growth can be seen in the classrooms, hallways, the community, and ultimately on the field. Today’s youth having an increasing need for guidance from adults with clear expectations, the ability to follow through, and a sincere respect for others.
Coach Traeger is truly that adult that is making a difference in the lives of our youth on a daily basis. I hope to see Coach Traeger’ lessons reach out to the coaches of other sports at Kennedy High School. I encourage principals who are being challenged by the youth in their buildings to consider Virtue over Victory. Having a Sports Leader in my community has proved to change the lives of all who accept the challenge.
John F. Kennedy High School and the entire Mt. Angel community would like to congratulate Coach Traeger for receiving the national honor of “Coach of Uncommon Strength”.
Below are testimonials from coaches and students:
“Coach Traeger is one in a million. We have been lucky to have such a caring, loving man to coach our football team. He has brought so much success to our team on and off the field. I am glad he is getting the recognition he deserves. One of the virtues he has taught me is service. His program gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Peru to help a needy family with his Huts to Homes project. On that trip I learned to appreciate all the blessings of my life, and I want to thank Coach Traeger for that. One of the many things that I appreciate about coach is his messages that he sends all of the players every day. Each message has such positive encouragement for us to better ourselves as men. I will always remember Coach Traeger for the virtues he has taught me, and I am forever grateful that he has been a part of my life.” Will Bochsler
“Sunday mornings are the days we practice to prepare for Friday nights. On Sundays we usually arrive with anticipation to get practice over with and leave; we still have bumps and bruises from the game two days ago and it makes practice even more difficult for our bodies. We pull sleds for a while at practice, but before we do all this Coach gives us a speech about virtue and how we can become better men. When Coach delivers these speeches, he makes me want to practice even harder to become a better player. He motivates me with his words and makes me want to excel. He is a man of wisdom, a man of knowledge, a man that I can go to when I am struggling. Coach has been there for me many times even though he may not know it, and I want to thank him for everything he has done to make me a better man, and for giving me an opportunity to play football, and for a trip of a lifetime to Lima, Peru.” Alan Venegas
“When you talk about Coach Traeger and the SportsLeader program it is easy to see how it has helped out the football program in terms of wins and losses. But something a lot of people don’t realize is how it helps the athletes off the field. It helps the kids think “am I doing the right thing?”, or “is it virtuous?”. I truly believe that the program helps our young men become better sons, friends, siblings, and eventually better fathers, and overall better men! Coach Traeger runs a class act program and I am very proud to be a part of it.”
Coach Joe Panuke
“Coach Traeger has influenced me as a coach in several ways. First of all he has shown me that it's not all about x's and o's and what you know, it's about developing traits in a player and when those traits are developed good things are going to happen both on and off the field. He truly is more interested in making a better person, not necessarily the player, and the kids are responding to that. His influence on the kids will be for the long term, not the few years he spends with them. Secondly, he makes me think. I think now more than ever before about doing (or trying to do) the right thing. Trying to put others before myself and wanting to be a better person.”
Coach Jeff Seiler
“In your life you meet many people. Some of the have little or no impact on your life, while others change your life forever. In every young man’s epic journey through life he needs a positive role model. Now, there are men and there are great men. Coach Traeger falls under the latter. He is the unblemished role model for any young man. He leads by example, inspiring his players to go out of their way to make the world a better place. Before every practice and game he would give us a life lesson, teaching virtues through everyday situations. He told us the benefits of living a virtuous life. We have never met a man so grounded in good morals and virtues. We are truly blessed to have had him as our coach for all four years of our high school career.”
Joe Schmidt, Nick Theimer, Derek Barth