As you know by now, Jon Kitna is no longer the head football coach at Waxahachie High School. After three years at the helm of a program hoping for a fresh start in 2015, Kitna came with plenty of fanfare and promise. Sometimes though, things don’t go as planned.
From where I sit, these past three years have been far more than about football. Measured solely by performance on the field, Kitna and his staff have ranked somewhere in the middle, after all, which usually doesn’t bode well in most Friday Night Lights cultures. That’s especially true under the Friday Night Lights beaming ever so brightly in this great state. Putting aside the on-field performance of Kitna’s three years in Waxahachie, I’m convinced the perpetual off-field troubles are responsible for this change.
There’s no reason to doubt those who love the coach and believe he’s made a difference in the lives of their sons. There’s also no reason to doubt the feelings of people who see it differently or who’ve been negatively impacted by the aforementioned troubles. Above all, what I’ve found most disconcerting in what has been the ‘Kitna era’ are the perpetual yet unnecessary declarations that the coach carries a special ordinance from God to lead young men as though they’ve never been led before. Such declarations are offensive to men like Dave Ream and hundreds of others who’ve been doing it here for decades.
That’s the rub, as I see it.
The football program may have needed a fresh start three years ago, but to suggest young men weren’t being taught character, responsibility, etc. prior was a mistake. It’s also offensive to many. That a couple of school board trustees exacerbated such a notion by endless, groupie-like sycophancy made it all the worse. There’s more to come on that as we get closer to those trustees running for re-election ... assuming they do.
So Jon Kitna is leaving Waxahachie. While he isn’t the first or the last, I find it sad in some ways. That promise of great things to come was genuine. It was even more attainable. That it didn’t happen saddens me. It wasn’t for lack of passion nor was it due to an inability to coach. Kitna has plenty of the former and an extraordinary sense of the latter. I suspect we’ll one day see the manifestations of both, but not here, not now.
What‘s important for the rest of is to put down the pitchforks and torches and get on with the business of learning from our experiences. The wild assertions made on social networks cover the gamut about Kitna’s departure but rarely represent anything truthful. Incendiary claims about who is to blame may sound clever, but no one benefits from such claims — no one.
If Jon Kitna’s approach helped a young man grow in his life, then Kitna should be commended. Many young men were, many weren’t, and that’s just how it goes.
What’s certain is that young men and women will continue being led in this school district and that coaches will come and go. What can’t come and go, though, is the ability to reflect on mistakes and what they’ve taught us in life.
In this case, we should learn that great leadership is always found in those who espouse humility, self-control, commitment, servitude, temperance and goodness. There’s plenty of such leadership taking place not only in the sports arena, but in the classroom, as well, and we should never forget that.
I wish Jon Kitna and his family the best life has to offer. I also hope the coach can use this difficult experience to hone his leadership skills in ways that lead him to higher levels of success than he ever thought possible.
More than anything, I hope the community of Waxahachie can realize that some of our more difficult experiences can actually be that which sets us on a better, more compatible path to excellence. That path needs to be lit with the attributes we all want from a football coach, a teacher, a trustee and a parent.
It need not be lit with pitchforks and torches.