How to Build a Winning Team. . . . One Day at a Time

Head coaches need the freedom to concentrate on what they do best—teaching and mentoring. CEO’s serve a different role—they handle what’s left by using their skills to get the rest of the job done.

The article written by Ron Kantowski on the front page of Sunday’s Sports Section, underscores how bumpy a road it is to turn losers into winners.

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With Spencer’s help, Rancho football begins drive to be winner again
By RON KANTOWSKI
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

If you are a longtime fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, then you remember the 1978 season, Wilbert Montgomery and Ron Jaworski and Harold Carmichael and Bill Bergey and Herm Edwards and that bunch. Those classic green and off-white uniforms with the stripes on the sleeves.

You remember Joe Pisarcik and the “Miracle at the Meadowlands.”

You remember coach Dick Vermeil’s tearful speeches, pregame and postgame.

And after the Eagles beat the Giants to clinch their first winning season in 12 years — and their first playoff berth in 18 — you remember Jaworski embracing Leonard Tose, the chain-smoking Eagles owner, who blew through millions and gave nearly as much to charity (he financed the first Ronald McDonald House), in the jubilant locker room.

“We’re winners, boss! We’re winners!” Isn’t that what Jaws shrieked, like a little boy in the Pop Warner league?

You also remember the uplifting music, because NFL Films caught the whole thing on tape.

Susan T. Spencer hopes to witness the day the Rancho High football team becomes winners again, boss.

Susan T. Spencer is Leonard Tose’s daughter. Before she was 40, as it says on the jacket of her book “Briefcase Essentials,” she was a mother, a teacher, a business owner, a lawyer, and general counsel and acting general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Philadelphia Frickin’ Eagles, as they might put it back there at Geno’s or Pat’s King of (Cheese) Steaks, right across the street.

Now that she’s a little older, Leonard Tose’s daughter has become the Rancho High football team’s biggest fan and benefactor.

Last month, she brought in some former Heisman Trophy winners and some old quarterbacks and donated the money from a golf tournament to Rancho, so the Rams might get new uniforms, spiffy ones like Bishop Gorman’s, and perhaps have their helmets refurbished.

This past week, through the auspices of her A Level Playing Field Foundation and new Rancho coach Tyrone Armstrong’s contacts in the NFL Foundation, about 50 current and future Rams took part in a free skills clinic at the Rancho field.

The NFL provided free T-shirts and free footballs and free glossy football and life skills manuals. Susan Spencer provided the large tub of ice water and the blue awning near the 50-yard line because it was pretty hot.

We were in the shady spot when I asked why she would adopt the Rams as her favorite high school team upon moving to Las Vegas.

“Because when I looked at the scores, Rancho always had zero and the other team always had 50,” she said.

Sort of like the Eagles when her old man bought the team in 1969.

Last season, Rancho lost 47-14 to Basic, 55-0 to Cimarron-Memorial, 49-3 to Liberty, 48-7 to Coronado, 45-0 to Las Vegas, 51-0 to Canyon Springs, 68-0 to Green Valley, 37-9 to Silverado, 52-7 to Valley. Add them all up and it’s 452-40.

The Rams were 0-9. They haven’t had a winning season in 16 years, before some of the kids who were running pass patterns and hopefully learning to tackle with their heads up even were born.

Susan Spencer didn’t know the entire history of the program. But she knew Rancho once was a powerhouse, and then Las Vegas underwent urban sprawl, and then Rancho wasn’t a powerhouse any longer.

She did not know that six years ago the Rams practiced in a city park, with makeshift goal posts made of PVC pipe and homeless men sleeping under evergreen trees. Rancho did not play a home game for three seasons while the new school was being built.

You trying running the option without stepping out of bounds, running into an evergreen tree and disturbing homeless men.

“I knew it was a long story, that there were a lot of issues,” Susan Spencer said.

About that time, a familiar-looking woman ducked under the blue awning to thank Spencer for her generosity and, well, just for taking an interest in the Rancho kids. It was Sandy Miller, wife of former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller. Sandra Ann “Sandy” Searles, Rancho High, Class of 1967.

The former Nevada first lady said she grew up right around the corner from where we were standing, that she had attended C.P Squires Elementary and J.D. Smith Middle School, the roofs of which could be spotted beyond the goal posts at the north end of the field.

“J.D. Smith still has swamp coolers,” she said, nodding toward those roofs.

My guess is that the classroom buildings at Bishop Gorman do not have swamp coolers.

Susan Spencer said something about how she realizes that football, and sports in general, is like the tail wagging the dog. So maybe that’s why the new coach started every day of the free football camp by lecturing his players in a classroom about how the classroom is more important than the football field in the long run.

Tyrone Armstrong was a backup guard at Oklahoma under Barry Switzer. When I asked if he graduated from Oklahoma, he lowered his sunglasses and raised his eyebrow in a way that suggested I had forgotten he played for Barry Switzer.

Armstrong said he received his degree from the University of Michigan at Flint, where he’s from, a tough place with a blue collar where college educations are hard to come by. Perhaps that explains why Armstrong teaches world history at Rancho instead of P.E. or machine shop.

A little later, Sandy Miller asked who the big kid out on the field was, that he looked pretty fast. She asked this in a hopeful tone that suggested if there were more like him, Clark had better watch out in the season opener when school starts up again.

Susan Spencer told her that was one of the coaches.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.



Categories: Blog, Events

2 replies

  1. What a great Article!! I can’t tell you how special it is to have someone like Susan Spencer “adopt” the Rancho High Football Program! I was also astounded to read that Rancho had the good judgment and good fortune to hire Tyrone Armstrong to teach Rancho how to shed its losing ways. Tyrone Armstrong is an outstanding individual, and outstanding coach, an outstanding leader and an outstanding role model. If the administration at Rancho will just be a little patient and let this good man do his job, I urge everyone to just stand back and watch what happens – – it will truly be special. From thousands of miles away from Nevada (i.e., a little town called Menominee in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) – – GO SUSAN SPENCER – – AND GO COACH ARMSTRONG!!

    • Dear Wesley, Thank you for the vote of confidence …hailing from Michigan I guess you had the opportunity to see Coach Armstrong’s work when he coached at Beecher HS in Flint,Michigan. The qualities you described about Tyrone ring true to everything that I have seen both on and off the field. Love the cheer. . . we need more positive voices like yours in Las Vegas so come and see Rancho’s football team in action starting August 30th against Clark High School at Clark.

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