I was at the Tennessee state high school football championships this past week and saw something I've rarely seen in years of covering team sports.
In the Class 4A championship game, unbeaten Maryville was taking on Hillsboro High School from Nashville. Maryville came in having won 74 games in a row and four state championships in a row. They were heavily favored to be Hillsboro. Their coach is George Quarles, a quiet, caring, but competitive man who actually allowed our camera's into his locker room before the game.
Quarles walked around the room hugging and shaking the hands of every one of his players. He didn't give a rah rah speech. Instead, he just encouraged for each player individually.
I watched him on the sidelines throughout the game and he conducted himself the same way despite the fact that his team committed a number of uncharacteristic turnovers and wound up losing the game 10-7.
I was curious to see how he and his team would react to the loss, and to my amazement Quarles and his team didn't hold their heads down even though I knew they were bitterly disappointed. They walked straight over to the Hillsboro players and I heard them say over and over, "good job or good game."
Then at the trophy presentation Quarles led his team out with a smile on his face and offered thanks for the runner-up trophy which the players on his team lifted with enthusiasm. The runner-up trophy mind you. The 74-game winning streak was snapped, and yet they conducted themselves with class and dignity.
I can see why they've won so much and why they'll win again. They're coached by a man who "coaches for life" and lives what he preaches.