Bill Wiitala Story Part 1 – Letter to the Alumni

To: Madison Alumni Association and Community.

From: Bill Wiitala, Fall of 2021

Regarding: Core Values of the Madison Athletic Department 1966-1988

In 1966 I was asked if I would be interested in assuming the position of Athletic Director at Madison. At first glance, I had no interest in the job. Having enjoyed four years of coaching the Madison baseball teams, I felt I was not a good fit for the school. I had left the coaching job due to a disagreement over the philosophy regarding the goals of the athletic program. However, when I was invited to take the job with the understanding that I would be a part of the interviewing and hiring of future coaches, I saw an opportunity to try and steer the department towards the real core values inherent in a good program.

I began my career with these core values in mind and enjoyed the support of many wonderful administrators, teacher/coaches, parents, and community leaders as we worked toward these goals:

  1. Athletics should teach self-control.
  2. Athletics should teach self-sacrifice.
  3. Athletics should teach self-discipline.
  4. Athletics should teach teamwork.
  5. Athletics should teach sportsmanship.

All good teachers teach these in their classrooms, but I believe athletics offers a unique opportunity for teacher/coaches to hammer these values home during the heat of competition. When an athlete fails to measure up in one of these areas, the door is wide open for teaching and growth if we have good teacher/coaches who use the event as a teachable moment. The next time he or she is tested, we will see how vital our job was to educate the next generation’s leaders. Wins and losses will come and go, but what your athletes take with them into their adult lives will either lead them to lives of joy and success or to failure and frustration.

I want to thank the many administrators, teacher/coaches, students athletes and parents who worked so hard to accomplish these goals. No, we did not reach everyone, but I can assure you we tried. Recently I was enjoying lunch with a group of Madison alums who had made their marks throughout the community. They were in their prime and it was so satisfying to learn what they had accomplished. I will never forget what one of the men said: “I learned everything I needed to know to be successful on Wall Street while on the playing fields at Madison”. He was not saying that he didn’t need the great classroom teachers he had at Madison, but while all the knowledge he gained in the classroom was valued, he also needed the core personal values that athletics helped him develop. It is a tough world, and one needs to have the personal fortitude to face the challenges that we all face at one crossroad or another.


Mr. Gerald Exley, Madison’s first Athletic Director, instituted this award when the school first opened, and it was to be given to persons who gave extraordinary support to the athletic program. These awards were given to parents, business leaders, faculty members, and students who used their time, talents, and treasure to help in various ways. Let me conclude by saying how gratifying and humbling it has been for me to have lived long enough to see the “fruit of our labor”. As teachers and coaches, we heard it said over and over that we are responsible for educating the next generation. When I see what this Madison Alumni Committee has done, I am humbled to think I had the joy of being a part of the faculty that helped produce such strong, productive citizens. This field house project will serve as a powerful teaching tool for the next generation of students at the new Leodis McDaniel High School and will remind past, present, and future students of the benefits derived from adopting these core values as guide rails, developing the character traits that lead to a life of success and joy.