Some people meander through life searching for the ultimate job or the right lifestyle, I never had that problem. From my earliest recollections I always knew exactly what it was I wanted to be. I always wanted to be a football coach. Whenever anyone asked me, even as a young child, what do you want to be when you grow up I never gave all the normal answers. I didn’t want to be a fireman, a policeman or the President of the United States, and I certainly didn’t want any part of the life of a traveling salesman, like my father. My answer was always the same, “I want to be a football coach”, and that was way before I played on a team or watched a game either on TV or in person. I never could pin point why I gave that answer until as a young man my mother told me the following story. Then it all came together for me.
My family moved west from Omaha, Nebraska and settled in Canby, Oregon in August 1943. It was a small town twenty miles south of Portland in the great Pacific Northwest. Our home was located across the street from the Canby High School football field.
It was August and the high school team had begun its two a day practice sessions preparing for the upcoming season. Twice daily the team would go through their practice routine under the watchful eyes of their coach.
One-day mom was calling for her boys but neither was within earshot. She searched around the back yard but couldn’t find us playing in our usual spots. The property wasn’t very large but we did have room enough for a pet goat and it was with him us boys spent a lot of time.
Becoming somewhat concerned she walked across the road and noticed the football team preparing to begin practice. Not being a shy person, my mom walked up to the coach and asked if he by chance had seen two little boys. “Well now madam, if you’re speaking about those two young ‘uns sitting up in the bleachers with their pet goat, it’s not by chance. “They’re nearly always here you know. Think they’ll want to play or coach some day?”
For me it had to be right there watching from the perch high atop the school grand stand where the seeds of coaching this game of football took root. I don’t remember anything about living in Canby or the goat or watching football practice. I was way too young. But, it’s obvious to me that is the place my infatuation with this wonderful game of football began. Under the hot August sun in Canby, Oregon, over sixty years ago…
Coach Smythe graduated from Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon in 1959. He was a three sport athlete winning ten varsity letters during his high school career. He spent three years at the University of Oregon participating at the freshmen level in football, where he was the starting qb, basketball and baseball as the starting first basemen.
After one season at the College of San Mateo leading the Bulldogs to the 1970 league championship and garnering MVP honors, Coach Smythe finished his playing career at Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Oregon again participating in football, basketball and baseball. He graduated in 1965 from Lewis & Clark and earned his masters of education there in 1970.
This past year Coach Smythe began his 45th year in the coaching profession with his second stint at Lakeridge H. S. Previously he has been the Head Coach at: Lake Oswego H. S. (1970) Lakeridge (1971-1987) Lewis & Clark College (1988-1993) Vienna Vikings, Vienna, Austria (1994-2004) Mc Nary H. S. (1995-2007) Evergreen H. S. (2007-2008) Jyvaskyla Jajuars, Jyvaskyla, Finland (2007-2008) Zagreb Thunder, Zagreb, Croatia (2011).
He doesn’t believe, as many people do, in long hours in an office which he believes drains enthusiasm, concentration and effort but rather he is a believer in Quality time in preparation. He will tell you he has patterned his life around the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” Quality effort is vital to success. “Long hours in an office building a big playbook doesn’t make a coach.” He believes strongly that coaching is all about communication between the head coach and his assistant’s and how they relate to players.
Building a football program is way more than knowing X’s and O’s. It’s not what you know but what you can teach your players.” He believes successful coaching is all about communication and time management. Coaching can be broken down into four categories: Organization, Motivation, Communication and Imagination.
Coach Smythe has won state titles in Oregon in three different decades and two centuries, 1987 at Lakeridge and 1997 and 2001 at Mc Nary. In Europe his team won six national titles in Austria and two European championships. He has turned around programs at the high school, small college and international level’s. He began a program at a new high school and set a standard that continues long after his departure. He knows how to win and how to build programs. He has an overall win/loss record in high school of 301-89 and overall 443-136, an %.76 winning percentage.
He and his wife Nancy celebrated there twenty fifth wedding anniversary this past May. They currently reside in West Linn, Oregon.
1965; Began his teaching career at Willamina High School in Oregon. He was the head basketball and assistant football coach.
1967; Moved to Tigard High School as head Frosh football Coach and JV basketball coach.
1969; Moved to Lake Oswego High School, his alma mater, as assistant football coach and PE instructor.
1970; Began his head coaching career at LOHS. His six and three win loss record was good for third place in the Metro League, the school’s first and last season in the perennial powerful Portland area league.
1971; The second high school in Lake Oswego opened and he began a seven year run at Lakeridge H. S., Lakeridge won its first six football games, a feat unprecedented in Oregon high school history. The final 7-2 record would set the tone for the program.
1978; Taking a year’s leave he spent the season coaching on Craig Fertig’s staff at Oregon State University.
1979; He returned to Lakeridge High School and began a nine year run that would end with a state title in 1987. In each of the last five years his team reached the final four. In sixteen years at Lakeridge his teams were a combined 157 and 32.
1988; He began a six year stint at Lewis & Clark College, his Alma Mater. He completely turned around a program that had not had a winning record in twenty years nor a championship in thirty. He guided the Pioneers to their only national championship tournament games, twice. He is only the second coach to finish his tenure at the college with a winning record.
1994; He began a spring-summer odyssey in Austria coaching the Vienna Viking Football Club taking them, in his first season, to their first ever national championship. In his nine seasons with the Vikings his team won six national titles and two European championships. His last team in 2005 won both the Austrian and the European championship. His overall record of 94 wins and 14 losses took the Vikings to the panicle of European football.
1995; He began a twelve year stint at Mc Nary High School in Keizer, Oregon. The school had won only two league championships in twenty five years. It took him two seasons for his first of six league championships and in his third year won the first of two state titles.
2007; Un-retired and returned to the classroom while leading the Evergreen Plainsmen, of Vancouver Washington, to a league championship in his first season.
Began a two year summer stint with the Jyvaskyla Jaguars in Jyvaskyla, Finland. In their first season in the top division the Jags made the semi final and did it again in 2008.
2009; Begins a second stint at Lakeridge High School. Taking over a program that had hit bottom after 35 years of winning records.
2011; Spent the spring and summer coaching the Zagreb Thunder in Zagreb, Croatia. Led the team to the championship game.
HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACHING RECORD (34 SEASONS)
LAKE OSWEGO HIGH SCHOOL 1970 6-3
LAKERIDGE HIGH SCHOOL 1971-87 157-32
MC NARY HIGH SCHOOL 1995-2006 109-33
EVERGREEN HIGH SCHOOL 2007-08 13-6
LAKERIDGE HIGH SCHOOL 2009- 16-15
*PLUS: Nine Final 4 appearances 80/83/84/85/86/87/96/97/01
Three State Championships
1987 LAKERIDGE HIGH SCHOOL
1997 Mc NARY HIGH SCHOOL
2001 Mc NARY HIGH SCHOOL
COLLEGE HEAD COACHING RECORD (6 SEASONS)
LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE 1988-93 29-25
*PLUS: 2 National Playoff teams 1989/1991
INTERNATIONAL COACHING RECORD (12 SEASONS)
VIENNA VIKING FB CLUB 1995-2006 94-14
JYVASKYLA JAGUAR FB CLUB 2007-08 13-5
ZAGREB THUNDER FB CLUB 2011 6-3
*PLUS: Six National Championships 1994/99/00/02/03/05
Two European Championships 2004/2005
TOTAL WIN LOSS RECORD, 52 SEASONS:
WINS 443 LOSSES 136
WINNING PERCENTAGE: .76 %