For Tim Sweeney, time, not victories, determines his success as a football coach.
“Wins belong to the kids. They row the boat. We steer the boat,” said Sweeney, a Bethel Park resident who was recently hired as head coach at Baldwin.
Sweeney said his job as a high school coach is to mold players into productive members of society.
“Long-term, the goal is to see all who participate go on to be outstanding representatives of their communities and be good husbands and good fathers,” he said.
Before Sweeney’s arrival as head coach at Derry, the Trojans had fallen upon hard times. In six seasons under Sweeney, Derry compiled a 49-18 record and advanced to the WPIAL Class 3A championship game in 2018.
In the aftermath of the Trojans’ WPIAL title game loss to Aliquippa was a life lesson. Sweeney had raised enough money to treat his team to dinner at Morton’s Steak House, but in order to attend his players had to dress appropriately and put away all cellphones.
“Technology is a wonderful thing,” Sweeney said, “but once in a while you have to stop and enjoy the moment. We are not given tomorrow and we do not know what will happen.
“Those are the kinds of things beyond the wins and losses that I think are important,” he added.
Preparation is vital to Sweeney as well.
“Whether we are preparing kids for football at the next level or kids who are just happy to be part of the program, they are held to the same standard,” he said.
If a meeting starts at 9 a.m. Sweeney said he expects his players to be seated and ready to participate by 8:50.
“It’s the same way if you’d have a job interview,” he said. “You would show up early. You’d want to be prepared. This is no different.”
Sweeney’s preparation for the 2020 campaign though has been unusual. Because of COVID19, team activities, including in-person meetings and practices, have been postponed by the PIAA and WPIAL until July 1.
“One of the challenges right now with all the self-quarantine is when can you physically stand in front of your team? And what makes it more difficult for a new coach is how do you also hire a staff,” he said.
“There are two options. You could sit around and say ‘woe is me’ and belly ache or you can deal with the hand you are dealt.”
Sweeney said he has relied on resources at his fingertips. He said he has used Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts as well as cellphones to communicate with his players and staff, which is being built from the ground up.
“I’m doing the best I can. I have to,” he said. “I have to surmount challenges just as I ask my players to do.”
A Latrobe native, Sweeney played high school football at Derry before moving on to compete at Penn State. He and his wife, Robyn, are raising a 4-year-old son, Deuce.
Sweeney said he understands the teenage mind as well as the role of a parent.
“Not everybody is a choir boy in high school and if one of my players gets into trouble I want them to come see me,” he said. “I want them to look me in the eye and tell me. No texting. No calling. I want my players to learn to communicate. That’s a skill that tech is trumping right now. My players are special and I am making a commitment to them. If they play at Baldwin for me, they will not only focus on running faster and lifting weights, they will also work on the skills they need to be successful in life.”
Baldwin finished 5-6 last fall and advanced to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“We want to put a product out there that the community is proud of, a product that not only exhibits toughness, but exudes class,” he said. “Our approach as coaches is to give our players our best effort to put them in a position to let them enjoy success and do what we need to do to win football games but also to serve them in their development well into their lives off the field.”