Tradition. A simple word, yet a word that carries so much depth in its meaning.
Midland Lee head coach Clint Hartman is fully aware of that. He’s humbly reminded of the traditions of the storied program he leads on a daily basis.
“There have been guys who have tried to come in and change the tradition and make it their own,” Hartman said. “But you can’t do that. You have to recognize what this job means and it’s traditions.”
That tradition? It can be seen in the old-school drills that the coaches still use. The drills are made to build men in the light of the program; to be humble, hardworking and, most of all, tenacious in their approach to life. The tradition can be heard in the conversations that the coaching staffs frequently have with those that came before them at alumni dinners.
It is at those dinners that Hartman understands even more the importance of this tradition. Being the head coach at Lee is much more than just being a ball coach. If anything, you are more a local celebrity trying to navigate the balance the tradition with an ever-evolving world.
“This is one of the few jobs where no matter where you go, people come up to you and say, ‘How are we going to be this year Coach,” Hartman chuckled. “The community is behind the program with everything, and it creates a pressure to be able to maintain.”
Most football fans in the United States know about Midland Lee, if only from the movie Friday Night Lights. Perhaps it’s this pressure that helped Hartman meet the pandemic head on.
Though the tradition that Hartman has embraced has always created a strong family environment between his staff, players, and alumni. it was during the pandemic that this family bond was tested the most.
“As coaches, we started having 15-minute meeting before our meetings,” Hartman said. “Just to make sure that this kid’s personal life was alright. If a kid’s family were struggling, we wanted to know so that we could figure out how to help the kid and the family.”
Hartman knew he wanted football to happen for his players. He wanted not only his seniors be rewarded for their hard work, but all the seniors across the state. Hartman called major programs across Texas to see how they were handling the pandemic, what implementations had been made so that they could safely have a season. He also knew that before football, he needed to make sure his players were alright.
It is easy, in sports, to look past the humanity and focus on the competition. However, there is a deeper message within sports that Hartman understands. It’s what drives him to keep the traditions alive and be able to bring them into the future. Hartman understands that there are lessons within sports that are larger than the activity. The unity, the understanding, the empathy for those around you are all taught in locker rooms. All these factors must be present for the team to strive.
Sports is at its best when these factors reach past the team, to help others strive. Coach Hartman and his staff exemplified this throughout the pandemic. Whether it be going the extra mile for his team, to make sure that the family tradition of his program continues. He didn’t stop with his program either. When playing El Paso Hartman wanted to make sure that every senior for El Paso got their recognition, as COVID had disrupted their ability for families to watch their kids play.
Hartman knew how tough the season had been and he knew that in such a physical game, perhaps the mental toll outweighed the physical this season. He wanted to make sure that those seniors were recognized for their work, especially in a season such as this.
It is this unity, humility, and strive for bettering that is the embodiment of the Midland Lee tradition.
*This article was written by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football in partnership with VisitMidland*