Wins, championships and sustained achievement. Chuck Kyle has enjoyed all of these throughout his 30 years as head football coach at Cleveland St. Ignatius High School.
With each milestone comes another chance for Kyle to reflect on the relationships he has built with fellow coaches, current and former players and the Ohio high school football community in general.
On Saturday, St. Ignatius beat Austintown Fitch, 35-26, in the first round of the Ohio Division I playoffs. It marked Kyle’s 300th win as a head coach – all at his alma mater.
Kyle was the head coach of the 2009 U.S. Under-19 National Team, leading Team USA to the gold medal at the inaugural IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio. He brought the same intensity and focus to those three weeks that he does each fall in the Northeast Ohio parochial school.
First as an assistant, then as a head coach at Cincinnati St. Xavier, Steve Specht watched how Kyle prepared his teams. As defensive coordinator of the 2009 U.S. Under-19 team, Specht got to work alongside Kyle and know him in a whole new way.
“I’ve known Chuck my entire professional career,” said Specht, who also served as the U.S. Under-19 head coach in 2012. “I’ve always admired his work ethic and success from afar, but the opportunity to work with him was an opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve also had the privilege of coaching against his teams every year I have been a head coach. Coach Kyle’s teams always represent the gold standard.
“In many ways, I believe we are able to measure ourselves against what his teams are, how they prepare and how they compete. Working with him in 2009 confirmed everything I have always felt about Coach Kyle and how he has impacted our profession and my life as a coach personally.”
Miami Christopher Columbus Head Coach Chris Merritt agrees. Merritt was the defensive coordinator on the 2009 Under-19 team and the head coach for the 2010 squad. He also served as defensive coordinator in 2011 and offensive coordinator in 2012.
“Coach Kyle is simply a class act. What you see is what you get,” Merritt said. “I learned a lot from Chuck in regards to how you deal and communicate with kids. I’m a better coach for having worked with him for those three weeks.”
Kyle's infuence was felt by the playres as well. Pat Hinkel, a linebacker at Miami (Ohio), played for Kyle at St. Ignatius and with the 2009 U.S. Under-19 National Team.
"Coach Kyle had a huge impact on my education and football career," Hinkel said. "He stressed the importance of preparation every day, whether it was in his English classes or for football games. One thing that's still with me today is Coack Kyle's message of being physically, mentally and spiritually prepared and how important each stage is when setting out for your goals."
Kyle’s teams have won 11 Ohio big-school titles, the most in the Buckeye state since a playoff format was adopted in 1972, and his teams have been named USA Today national champions three times. He is 300-68-1 overall (.814), which includes winning streaks of 39, 38 and 25 games.
His program is synonymous with success, which he shares with his staff, many of whom have been with him since he became head coach.
“Those are some of the best friends I have ever known, who coach with me here,” Kyle said. “(The 300 victories are) because good friends get together and have fun doing it. … That’s why this happened.”
As a high school coach, Kyle is influencing a second generation of players as sons follow fathers through St. Ignatius.
After Saturday’s win, Kyle reminded his players who they follow and who they lead in the Wildcats’ program.
“There’s a lot of wonderful, wonderful young men who contributed to these 300 victories,” Kyle told his team in the locker room. “And I got news for you. As you watch them on the highlight films and all that stuff, just picture this: There are some young kids out there who always have their hand up (for a high five or handshake as you take the field). Someday, they’re going to be in this building, and you are going to be their heroes.”