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Where winning takes care of itself

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In a town of 1,600 in western Kansas, coach Roger Barta has compiled a 289-58 record, eight state championships and the longest active winning streak in high school football.

His secret? Never play to win.

“We don’t talk about winning and losing,” Barta says of his team, drawn from a high school of only 166 students. “We talk about getting a little better every day, about being the best we can be, about being a team. And when we do that, winning and losing take care of themselves.”

Offering his players advice on a wide range of skills, from basic hygiene to academics, Barta promotes a culture somewhere between the closeness of a family and the ferocity of a combat unit.

He is caring, and he is relentless.

“None of this is really about football,” he says.

He had great mentors before him. His own high school football coach “kind of raised us like his own kids.” Now Barta has a bunch of coaches and assistant coaches coming up behind him. His son Brooks, also a high school coach in Kansas, already has two state championships under his belt.

The elder Barta lays down essentially two rules: Don’t embarrass us and don’t embarrass yourself.

“Someone here is the best football player on the team, and someone is the worst,” he tells his players. “It’s time to forget about that. Let’s respect each other. When we respect each other, we’ll like each other. When we like each other, we’ll love each other. That’s when, together, we’ll become champions.”

— Adapted from “Life Coach,” Joe Drape, Reader’s Digest.

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