GCC coach Smetanka asking his players to focus on more than wins

Sunday, August 12, 2018 | 10:12 PM

For Aaron Smetanka, Greensburg Central Catholic’s pollyannaish, second-year football coach, winning games is important, but it’s not the only goal.

Showing respect, demonstrating teamwork and generally achieving a sense of enjoyment are some of the others. Developing a solid character to carry into adulthood, more than anything, is paramount.

The rest, he said, will take care of itself.

“He’s shown us all along that our well-being is his first priority,” senior lineman Matt Hogan said.

There will be plenty of togetherness at GCC for the next couple of months. On Monday, the Centurions officially open training camp after spending a week at heat-acclimation drills.

GCC, coming off a 3-7 record in Smetanka’s first season, will open its schedule Aug. 24 at home against New Philadelphia (Ohio) Tuscarawas Central Catholic before playing at Riverview on Aug. 31 in its first WPIAL Class A Eastern Conference game.

As he began to prepare for his second season at GCC, Smetanka found himself taking the focus off game outcomes, something seemingly foreign to most coaches at any level of any sport.

Remembering his playing days at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and his playing and coaching time in college at Robert Morris and Saint Vincent, Smetanka decided to introduce his team to a life-help program known as “Coaching Boys Into Men.”

GCC players and coaches completed the weeklong course at Blackburn Center of Westmoreland County, a domestic and sexual violence supportive center, which adopted the motto, “Standing together to end violence.”

“We were the only school from Westmoreland County to do it,” Smetanka said.

The program was held with the support of UPMC, Pitt and the Steelers, who later asked Smetanka to speak on the subject of domestic violence and how to curb it during their annual training camp at Saint Vincent.

“We learned some valuable lessons,” Hogan said.

“Lessons on keeping your emotions in check, respecting women and girls, developing good social media habits. All these things we can apply to our everyday lives and to our time on the football field. It’s all about respect.”

Victories are important, too. Of course, Smetanka is no different than most any other coach in the heat of a Friday night fray. But the “Coaching Boys Into Men” program will be on his mind and, he hopes, the minds of his players and coaching staff for years to come.

“The program was something I wanted to do,” Smetanka said. “It’s great for the kids. I saw things when I was coaching at college and when I was a player, where my teammates didn’t seem like they had the proper guidance. I was raised with that Catholic background, where the values I learned in the Catholic school system I hold true in my own life.”

Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.


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