High School Cover 2 has been following the accomplishments of the Bothell High School football program and, when head coach Tom Bainter agreed to speak with us, we jumped at the chance to learn why his team has had so much success It didn’t take us long to understand why Coach Bainter spoke about Bothell with passion and, as he described his coaching philosophy to us, we felt the years melt away and were ready to strap on the pads and hit the field to play for him This is a guy who is doing it for all the right reasons As he told us, he likes to think outside the box But, everything he does, he does for his players As Jim says in his article that preceded this one, “He’s a heck of a coach, and an even better man”
In the interview below, we hope that you can feel some of the passion and love for the game that we felt sitting there in his classroom listening to Coach Bainter wax poetically about Bothell and his football program As Coach Bainter riffed on and on about his theories for getting the school and community behind the football team and what he does to get everyone involved, it became abundantly clear why Bothell wins football games and continues to do so year after year
We started off the interview by asking him where he played his collegiate football Coach Bainter: I went to Western I was the first Bainter to graduate from college and I went to college because Western had an interest in me playing football
Where did you play your high school football?
Coach Bainter: I played at Evergreen High School Evergreen closed in 2007
How old were you when you began playing football? Coach Bainer: I was eight years old I played for a program called Highline Youth Association We were the Cougars, kind of like we are at Bothell, so I’ve come full circle with mascots We were purple and gold like the Huskies There was an abundance of youth programs in the area in those days I went to Puget Sound Junior High School which closed after I finished ninth grade It’s now an Albertsons
How long have you been coaching at Bothell? Coach Bainter: Nine years
Where did you coach before that? Coach Bainter: I was the head coach at Shorewood for three years Before that I was an assistant at Mt Si Before that I was at Inglemoor for two years I had just moved away from the Evergreen area where I had been student teaching and coaching into a place located between Bothell and Inglemoor I called both schools trying to land a volunteer coaching job Inglemoor called back, Bothell didn’t
Bothell has what we think is one of the premier football programs in the state This is something that we have been told by many who know about these things How do you handle the relationship between the high school and the youth feeder leagues in the area? What is your coaching philosophy? Coach Bainter: We are one of the few schools around that still have a Junior High with grades 7, 8 and 9 So players are only in our program for three years When they get to our team they are green, they’re learning the ropes, the terminology, the language I would love for the area Junior High and elementary schools to run our schemes, but I’m not going to mandate it If you are volunteering your time, you’ve got to run what you are comfortable with I’m an inclusive person I’d never say “my program,” “it’s our program” It’s not “my offense,” it’s “our offense” I feel that the more people you can get onboard, the better When I got here there was already a camp for the younger area players hosted by our coaches and players We’ve tried to strengthen the bridge between the programs As a consequence, our youth kids now dress and look like the high school kids Their colors are now royal and white like we are and they have a cougar paw like we do Of course, other teams do the same thing and I think that’s the way it should be My goal is to do like Bellevue and have kids from age eight to eighteen say they are a Bothell Cougar
Who was the best football player you ever played against?
Coach Bainter: It was probably Michael Oliphant He was at UPS and we played them when I was at Western He was later drafted by the Redskins where he played for a couple of years After that, he went up to the CFL for a while He stands out as a guy who was really good
Who was the best player you ever played with?
Coach Bainter: I played with Walter Bailey up at Western He was having academic problems that sent him up there for one year before he was able to come back and play at UW His self-proclaimed nickname was “Sweet B” He was quick, fast and athletically talented He could do amazing things athleticly
Who was the best player that you ever coached? We have three Bothell kids at UW now They were born Division One genetically Most people don’t grow to be that size and then are able to throw a baseball 85 MPH or play basketball with such coordination Colin Porter, for example, was 6’ 4 1/2” and weighed 310 pounds while being able to run a 52 40 Those three were really gifted, but I’ll tell you that probably the best, pound-for-pound, that we’ve had here might be a kid named Cory Burk He moved here from Alabama and played for us the two times we played for the state title He was only 5’8’ and 160 pounds but he was a football player He was the strongest and most physically gifted athlete that we’ve had here He played a lot of positions and could have played almost anything he wanted He’s at Central Washington now He started out at WSU and was injured so he transferred to Central He broke his thumb last year and had to have it surgically repaired so he red shirted He’s ready to go this year He’ll be playing slot receiver
How is your support from the school administration?
Coach Bainter: It is good If you start at the district level our budget for football is really low My budget is $10,000 each year Out of that I recondition every helmet every year even though you are only required to do so every other year This year it cost us $6200 to recondition the helmets That doesn’t leave a lot, but I came to this district because I believed that they viewed sports and activities as co-curricular not extra-curricular I’ve been in districts that believe that as long as academics are strong, everything is okay In this district they feel that both academics and athletics and other activities need to be strong so it’s wonderful to coach here because we have that great support Our in-building support is great as well Our administration holds us to a standard that I believe we should be at, but they give us support as well I have 20 assistant coaches The district pays for four
You have 16 volunteer coaches?
Coach Bainter: That’s right Think about it We have 140 kids, from 10th through 12th grade here who turn out for football If we only had 10 coaches that’s a 1 to 14 ratio, that’s not good
You get great fan support for your home and away games Your home games have the feel of a college game because of all the excitement Can you comment on that? Coach Bainter: First, we are lucky that Bothell is a one school town But, to get the students interested in your program you have to first put yourself in their shoes Why would they want to go to a game? What at the game would make it more interesting and enjoyable? When we first came here we had lost to Woodinville 16 straight times My very first game was an away game gainst Woodinville Games were played at 7:30 then At 7:00, while we were warming up, I heard a loud noise I looked around and there was truck load after truck load after truck load of Bothell fans coming down the hill and then waiting at the end zone I looked around trying to figure out what the heck was going on The other coaches looked at me and said, ”Oh ya, that’s what they do” The kids looked at me and said, “Coach, that happens all the time here” So I asked, “What do we do?” They said, “What do you mean, nothing, we play” That was the last time we did nothing The next game we sat there and we gave a fist The rule became that as soon as the fans arrived, we stopped what we were doing immediately and faced them and gave them a fist I wanted the students to feel that they were a part of what we were doing, they were one with us The city made it a little harder a couple of years ago by outlawing riding in the back of trucks, but we were able to convince the students to walk down where we are warming up so we could still stop and give them a fist Lately, those entrances have been closed off by new buildings and we’ve gone to giving the students and the fans a high-five when we get to the field It’s not as cool, but we had to find a way to keep them feeling connected Our youth programs run the burger stands and make money that way Once a year we have a youth night and all youth team members wearing a jersey get in free We feel that we have to recognize them and make them feel important When you line them up and acknowledge them, they know that in a few years they will be doing this with us, the varsity You have to find ways to connect your city or your community to your program We’re lucky here Bothell High School is more than 100 years old I’ll be in Eastern Washington wearing a Bothell shirt and someone will come up to me, and say they went Bothell and want to talk about it There’s history here With that comes pride There are a lot of old-timers in Bothell who have pride in their school When other coaches tell me that I’m lucky to be coaching here I tell them if they don’t like where they are, they have two options They can leave or they can make where they are better Somebody has always got it a little better than you and it’s your job to make the necessary improvements The Vancouver School District allows their teams to pay for 10 coaches As I said before, our district only pays for four That’s not enough for our 140 players I have a couple of choices I can leave or I can get guys to volunteer We convince the booster clubs to pay a little bit and away we go
Can you explain a little more about your strategy for bringing the students, fans and community together? Coach Bainter: Here’s what I believe: The closer you can get your kids together, the more you can make it a family, the more important it will be that we don’t let each other down That’s great, but what if we had a parents support group that was the same way; a teachers support group; an administrative support group and a community support group? We’d have a lot of people looking after us now That’s what I believe is how we make a program like we have here But, it’s a constant job You can’t just sit back and rest on your laurels because you are always getting new teachers, new business leaders and the community is going to change over the decade, so the more inclusive we can be, the more people will want to be a part of what we have going on I’ve now been a head coach longer than I was an assistant, but when I was an assistant and you gave me some responsibility and made me feel that I was part of what was going on then I’d die for you and I’d get it done And if you make the kids feel that way, no matter what their roll is – and you have 140 kids but only so many can play on Friday night – that can be difficult, but you have to have a plan to deal with it, and we do Likewise you have to have a plan with your teachers and your community and we do It’s constant For example, on the week of homecoming we have every single one of our players give their jersey to a member of the school, a member who has made the biggest impression on them It can be a teacher, a custodian, a librarian, a cook, a secretary, a Principal or the Athletic Director, anybody When the players ask them if they’d honor them and wear their jerseys, it not only promotes unity, but it sometimes helps the player/student connect with their teachers on a more personal level It also helps them to understand that academics do come first We divide our players into groups of 10 and we do grade checks The group that has the highest combined grade point average doesn’t have to do conditioning that day or maybe the group with the lowest does double, whatever When the teachers ask why the players want their GPAs, they can tell them they are in a contest with their position group and this helps to promote the idea that our players are not just “dumb jocks,” and that they are there to learn These are just some of the things that you can do Sometimes you have to think outside the box One thing I am is inclusive, I never want to be exclusive Some people want their football team to be separate from everyone else I think that’s a huge mistake When we play teams like that on Friday night, chances are we are going to beat them because our crowds are going to be louder and more supportive The idea is that you are playing for “us,” not just our team We are one of the few programs that lets Seniors play JV Our thinking is that if you are a senior and you have done everything that we’ve asked, gone to the weight room, attended all the practices, kept up your grades, etc, why would you turn out again as a senior if you’ve never gotten to play in a game? Playing football is fun, but holding a bag all day for a varsity player is not, especially if you never get a chance to play in a game I promise the parents that if their son follows the team rules and is academically eligible he will play in a game every single week I just can’t promise that it will be Friday night Friday night is like life We play the best players and do what we have to do to win the game We’ll play as many as we can, but those that don’t play on Friday will play with the JV team during the week I’ve never had a kid say, “Coach, I don’t want to play” Sure they’d rather be playing on Friday with the band and the 5,000 cheering fans, but it’s more important that they get to play Some coaches have asked me if I’m ruining my future by including the seniors with the younger kids My answer is no We’ll coach the young players up I tell them that if we don’t let the seniors play, we won’t have 140 kids on the team, we’ll have 70 like you do, the other 70 kids who aren’t playing football, I don’t know what they are doing?” They’re not learning about life like the 70 on the team are I truly believe that football makes you better You’ll be a better husband, father, co-worker and you’ll be able to manage a group of men better if you can get through a team sport and follow the rules set out I know that some coaches would rather just coach the best kids It makes it easier But, I believe it’s important for as many kids as possible to play The teamwork that they learn will influence their work and their lives and give them memories to share when theyre older If you can do that for 40 kids, just think if you can do it for 140
Do you have any aspirations or desire to coach at a higher level? Coach Bainter: I do not When I was in college and dating my wife, I asked her if I wanted to be a college coach, would she be all right with it? Without thinking she said: absolutely Then I explained about the nomadic life of a college coach We might be in Utah, or Mississippi or wherever and the head coach gets fired, but she still said she was probably all right with it We didn’t have kids yet so there was really no way to know for sure But, it did make me stop and think The only thing that really appealed to me about coaching at a higher level was maybe coaching in front of 100,000 at Michigan or winning a Super Bowl Even at this level, during the football season it’s a constant struggle to stay in touch with my own two sons They are our ball boys and they come up here after their own practices and watch ours I just couldn’t imagine flying away on a Thursday for a Saturday game somewhere and then coming home and having to work until 10:00 each night and hardly ever seeing my family There’s nothing appealing about that to me I guess I could see doing it after my kids are grown and if the right job came along, but I’m very happy not to have to recruit and be on the road begging some kid to play for us That’s just not for me now
How do you deal with concussions at Bothell?
Coach Bainter: Because of the new law, it’s out of my hands We have a certified athletic trainer and a team doctor who make those decisions We don’t do a lot of hitting during practices here so most injuries occur during games when everyone is going full bore Some coaches like to do a lot of hitting in practice to get their players ready for the game, but that’s not how I like to do it
- Bothell High’s Dynamic Football Coach — Tom Bainter
- Coach Interview – Tom Bainter – Bothell High School
- Friday Night Lights Burn Brightly Again
- Lummi All-Stars Win National Tournament
- Coaches Bio – Tim Dennis – Everett JC Head Coach