We’ve heard a lot recently about bad coaches, ones who curse, bully and even physically abuse their athletes, ones who give star players a free pass when they get into trouble with the law.
We need to hear more about coaches like Forrest “Frosty” Westering, a man who justly earned such accolades as “legendary” and “inspirational.” Westering, who died Friday at age 85, was all that – and more – to the legions of young men he coached in football at Pacific Lutheran University from 1972 to 2003.
Westering showed that a coach doesn’t have to be a raging, harsh disciplinarian to get results. He believed in building up his athletes, not tearing them down. A humorous force of nature, he focused on instilling and reinforcing strong values in his charges that would serve them for the rest of their lives, not just in their brief careers as student athletes.
And his game plan worked incredibly well. He made PLU a small-college powerhouse in football, winning division national championships in 1980, 1987, 1993 and 1999. Under him, PLU had 32 consecutive winning seasons; his 305 victories were the 10th-most for a college football coach.
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But Westering would have been the first to say that all that took second place to the real wins: the personal victories each player made along the way. One only has to read the testimonials in the online comments to gauge the impact he had on so many lives.
• “He was always encouraging no matter how talented you may have been as an athlete. In later years I came to realize how much of a role model he was as a person.”
• “One of the finest men I have ever known. . . . Frosty may have left us, but his ideals and his accomplishments will live on forever.”
• “Those of us who played for or otherwise knew him are very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about life from such a great man.”
In sad coincidence, another Northwest sports great with PLU ties – basketball player and Hall of Fame coach Marv Harshman – died the same day as Westering. Both men saw their respective fields as more than games of sport; they were acts in the game of life. They achieved professional greatness by inspiring personal greatness in their athletes.
The region was fortunate indeed to have had Westering and Harshman provide that kind of leadership to so many young men. When their college glory days ended, these athletes had something to fall back on – life lessons learned from great coaches.