Podcast S1. Ep.23: What Is Your Model of Winning? Character in Athletics With Coach Scott Westering (Part 1/5)

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Coach Scott Westering is the son of Hall of Fame Coach Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma Washington. Scott was the Head Coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father who retired after 32 years. Over the last 20+ years Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics - including USA Football and two Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speeches.

We talk with Scott about the “Three-Sided Coin” model of winning and the work of putting a focus on character in athletics.


That’s exactly what this is about. Looking at how you define winning, and as you said, kind of even living with yourself, living with society, of knowing that I couldn’t have done any better, I gave it my best shot.
— Coach Scott Westering

Episode Transcript:

  • John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong Podcast, where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today we're talking with Coach Scott Westering. Scott is the son of Hall of Fame coach Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant coach at Pacific Lutheran University. Scott was the head coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father who retired after 32 years.

  • John: Over the last 20 plus years, Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics, including USA football and two Hall of Fame induction ceremony speeches.

  • John: Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Scott Westering.

  • John: All right. We're so excited to have Coach Scott Westering with us today on the CharacterStrong Podcast. These are fun. These have been a lot of fun, and it's exciting to have you on the show with us today.

  • Coach Scott: Looking forward to it, John, looking forward to it.

  • John: So we have proudly come together with the amazing work that you, Scott, your dad Frosty, who I'm sure that you'll talk about a little bit here, have been doing for many, many years. In fact, how many years have you been doing this work together collectively when it comes to making the big time, where you are, and really why we're here today, putting a focus on character in athletics? How long has that work been happening?

  • Scott: Pretty much a lifetime. All I ever knew my dad to be was a college coach when I was born, and I was blessed to have the honor, the privilege, to work with him and coach with him for 23 years. Then when he stepped away, I ended up becoming the head coach for 14. I've coached college football for 37 years, and he was the actual head coach at PLU for 32 years.

  • John: Wow. That's a lot of years. We're going to be getting into talking about character in athletics. One of the things that I love and I think it's important just hit right off the bat, is some people will say, who maybe are naysayers about putting a focus on character, Well, it's like, "Well, yeah, that's nice, but you can't win with that."

  • John: Just give us a little bit, even though you wouldn't unless I asked you say to this, but tell me, how successful over that time putting a focus on character and athletics was this program?

  • Scott: It was pretty successful, at the end of the day.

  • John: Yeah, to say the least.

  • Scott: At the end of the day, we played for eight National Championships. We won four of them, had over 20 National Championship playoff appearances and multiple, multiple conference championships, and those kinds of things. Dad has been voted and inducted into every Hall of Fame there is. The one obviously significant one is the College Football Hall of Fame down in Atlanta, which is where it's located now.

  • Scott: He also was awarded many, many awards, but was awarded the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, which in the world of coaching football is kind of the award. If you were to Google that, you would see pretty much a who's who in college football that's won that award.

  • Scott: I was blessed. It was a two edged sword, because my dad's health was failing and he couldn't make the trip back to Nashville. So I was there and got to accept the award on his behalf. And what an honor to do that. There were 3000 people in this ballroom, and it was a major deal. To be able to honor the uniqueness of who my father was, to speak to him and these people about him as my dad and yet my mentor, and all of those kinds of things, and the unique style of who he was. Because he lived out the title of the book he wrote, Make the Big Time Where You Are, which was kind of unique way of perspective of looking at life while looking at coaching.

  • Scott: He had multiple chances to go on to coach Division One football, coach pro football, but he chose not to do it. He believed as the book that he wrote, it says it right on the back of the cover, that the big time is not a place. It's not a destination. It's a state of your heart, a state of your mind.

  • Scott: He believed that in life, if you did what you love to do with the people you love to do it where you love to do it, that was the big time. That at the end of the day, again, it wasn't the title in front of your name, the money you make, the car you drive, where you live, whatever. If you had your heart right, you could make it anywhere and feel joy and contentness anywhere, and that's what he was all about.

  • John: Yep. Love it. What a breath of fresh air, too, in the sense of where we need to be putting our focus, and yet your dad was at the ninth winningest.

  • Scott: When he retired. Yup. He was the ninth winningest coach in the history of college football at any level.

  • John: Which is amazing, and yet to him it probably didn't matter anywhere close to what the real work that was happening. And if anything, I think it's important with kind of a multipart series here, doing a multipart podcast with you, talking about the work that we're now attempting to do, to take that to as many schools and athletes as we can. And talking about this idea of okay, let's talk about winning, then. Because I know a big part of making the big time where you are, the philosophy is well, what is your model of, what is your view on winning? Talk to me a little bit about the three sided coin when it comes to that.

  • Scott: It's an analogy that my dad put together to help explain to people how we do that, and define winning, because that's where it starts. You have to define it truly, and not just theoretically. Not on a whiteboard, but what is really ... How do you view winning? What does it really mean to you? That's how I always start my presentations and trainings with coaches is there, and get them to even sit and take some time to ponder that and write it down and all.

  • Scott: But he took this analogy of a three sided coin. Most people think a coin, they think just heads and tails. He kind of analogized the idea of, you flip that coin, you landed it, you see the back of your hand there. It's the heads, and the heads in essence when it comes to winning kind of represents being the best, the idea of you're the champion, you're number one, you are supposedly claimed as the best at what you do, so to speak.

  • Scott: But again, and we'll talk more about that as we go, but how often really in life, how often does that happen? And so, okay, you take that coin flip it again, lands on your back of your hand and now it's tails. The idea of tails would be kind of looked at it as doing your best.


... giving it your best shot doesn’t always mean you’re going to do your best. Sometimes you’re going to go out there and you definitely try every time you go out. As we go back to our analogy of track and field, that athlete tries to run as fast as they can in that hundred meter dash every time they run, but they don’t always improve their times. Likewise in that same analogy, that you can run a hundred meter dash and maybe run it slower than you’ve ever run and still win in a scoreboard sense, so to speak. It’s a real unique way of looking at winning. ...it got to a point where our goal going in to any given situation is to give it our best shot. If we can do that, we can live with it and feel great about ourselves.
— Coach Scott Westering

  • Scott: Simplest way to kind of analogize that is like in track and field. They call it a PR, a personal record. That you go out in a track meet and you run faster than you've ever run and you jump higher than you've ever jumped.

  • Scott: You can analogize it obviously in any aspect. You speak better than you've ever spoke before, giving a speech. You've turned in a report better than it's ever been. You've actually played whatever sport it is better than you've ever played, served, pitched, struck an object, whatever the heck it is, better than you've ever done it before.

  • Scott: And yet you can do that, and in the world's eyes, if it's still all about, as we would say, the scoreboard, you could still lose. So you can still ... Gee whiz, you can go out and personal record, be better than you've ever been before, and yet still lose in the world's eyes.

  • Scott: Then people again in that same analogy, that they forget about the edge of the coin. A little tough to catch that coin between your fingers, but now you see that edge. The edge basically represents the idea of giving it your best shot, and looking at winning.

  • Scott: Another way it's talked about oftentimes in the world of sport is after a contest or whatever is you'd say, I left it on the field. I left it on the court. You left it in the pool, on the course, whatever the heck it was, that you gave it your best shot. And that that, if you can remove yourself from a competitive situation and for that matter a life situation.

  • Scott: Going in for a job interview, you go in and you just ... It's the best interview you've ever given. You go home and you tell your wife and all that great stuff, and you feel great about yourself, but you can't control beyond that. You can sit at home and wait for that phone call to come and it still never comes.

  • John: But I can live with that.

  • Scott: That's right.

  • John: Because I am in control of that.

  • Scott: By all means, John. That's exactly what this is about. Looking at how you define winning, and as you said, kind of even living with yourself, living with society, of knowing that I couldn't have done any better, I gave it my best shot.

  • Scott: Now, giving it your best shot doesn't always mean you're going to do your best. Sometimes you're going to go out there and you definitely try every time you go out. As we go back to our analogy of track and field, that athlete tries to run as fast as they can in that hundred meter dash every time they run, but they don't always improve their times. Likewise in that same analogy, that you can run a hundred meter dash and maybe run it slower than you've ever run and still win in a scoreboard sense, so to speak.

  • Scott: It's a real unique way of looking at winning. Then you have to kind of see, what camp am I in? If you're really honest with yourself, look at yourself in the mirror. Is it all about just ... That at the end of the day, the only thing that matters, that it's number one or no one. We have to win the championship, we have to be the the champion, or number one, or it's been a wasted season, a wasted effort, whatever. Or that idea of again, doing your best, and that's great, and doing your best and putting yourself in a situation like that that gosh, that's awesome, but you don't do it all the time.

  • Scott: So what my father really came to grips with, and as I did and all, that it got to a point where our goal going in to any given situation is to give it our best shot. If we can do that, we can live with it and feel great about ourselves.

  • John: Love it. And the funny thing is, you just know that if the focus really, truly was there, there's no way you're not getting a better product collectively as a team of individuals. But if everybody was doing that, the rest takes care of itself. Whether that is, in the end, the scoreboard or not, but the rest, whatever it is, takes care of itself. But that we can control.

  • John: I can control that every single day, being better than I was yesterday. Helping teammates be better. I'm sure we'll talk more about that, but let's come back again on this multipart series and start talking about what these different kinds of games. How would you set it up?

  • Scott: It's the next step in this process, because as we say, it all starts with winning. Then right parallel with that, it all starts also with attitude.

  • John: So we're gonna talk about the attitude games.

  • Scott: That's right. We call these the attitude games, and we kind of break them down to the four C's. We look at the idea of comparison, and the concept of comparing ourselves to others. We look at the idea of confidence, of how we go about our attitude with confidence. We look at the word challenge, and looking at things, the proverbial glass of water, half empty, half full, and looking at it that way. And then the last C is the idea of caring, and caring for those around you in the journey that you're on because again, if you do this right ... You said it so well, John. The scoreboard'll take care of itself.

  • Scott: In all the years and all the National Championships we ever played for, we never, ever talked about winning a National Championship. Never. Never wrote it on a board, never put on a t-shirt, never wrote it down as a goal. It was always about the journey.

  • Scott: We'll talk more about that, because that's such an exciting part of this adventure is enjoying life and the journey of life that we have every day. It's the idea that we're not on the road to success. We're on the success road.

  • John: Love it. So, stay with us. We're going to do a multipart series. You're going to see more with Coach Scott as we're talking about not just character in athletics, but really making the big time where you are.

  • John: Thanks for being with us this morning.

  • Scott: Been my pleasure, John.

  • John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review, and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we are supporting schools, visit characterstrong.com. Thanks for listening. Make it a great day.


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