Omaha Westside’s Bob Greco admits he was solely focused on winning early in his coaching career.
Over the years, that mentality has changed. And the Warriors baseball program is better for it.
“If it’s all about winning, you’re not going to be happy very often,” Greco said. “I learned it was more about the relationships you build with the kids and getting them to fulfill their potential.”
The longtime coach has achieved those goals while building a baseball program that is one of the strongest in the Metro Conference. The team from Westside has won five Class A state titles — the most recent coming last month — and five American Legion state crowns.
Greco, in his 20th season with the Warriors, is the 2013 Nebraska high school boys coach of the year. He is the first coach from Westside to win the award since Tom Hall in 1980 and the first baseball coach to be honored since Omaha Northwest’s Bill Olson in 1985.
The Warriors’ success this season grew out of disappointment. Westside went 0-2 at the 2012 high school state tournament and then lost two straight games after winning three in a row at the Legion state tournament in the summer.
“Our guys really wanted to make up for that,” the coach said. “It was disappointing to have our seasons end that way.”
Westside graduated 10 seniors off those teams, but Greco had a talented young group coming back. The veteran coach knew team chemistry would play a major role because underclassmen would be taking a majority of the playing time away from some 2013 seniors.
“I talked about it with those seniors, and they understood,” Greco said. “They helped the younger players, and that was a big reason why we were able to succeed.”
The young team, which started only two seniors, had its share of growing pains. The Warriors lost two of their first three before winning their next seven.
Westside benefited from one of the wettest spring seasons in recent memory. The school’s artificial-turf field allowed the Warriors to get outside and practice when most other teams were forced to hold practices in gymnasiums.
“Because of our field, I think we practiced 10 or 15 more times outside than everyone else,” Greco said. “It’s a big advantage for us and one we don’t apologize about.”
The coach added that another key element to success can’t be overlooked.
“We work hard, but we try to have fun,” Greco said. “If the players aren’t having fun, then their hearts aren’t going to be in it. And then you’re in for a long season.”
To add to that element of fun, Greco has been known to sprinkle in games of whiffle ball with regular practices. It’s part of maintaining a positive attitude, senior catcher Will Frei said.
“He understands us players,” Frei said. “He knows the game is different from when he started coaching, and he’s always making sure that we’re mentally ready to play.”
To that end, Greco also motivates his team with various Youtube videos. One involves the movie “Braveheart,” his favorite film.
“Most of the videos we watch are about leadership,” he said. “I want our guys to leave everything on the field, because I don’t want them to have regrets later on in life.”
The Warriors posted a 21-5 mark and earned their 32nd trip to state. Westside won its first three games in the double-elimination event but then suffered its first tourney loss when Millard South — which needed to win to stay alive — blasted the Warriors 10-0.
“That was the key moment in our season,” Greco said. “The way we responded from that adversity was going to determine if we’d be able to reach our final goal.”
Westside achieved that goal by defeating Millard South 8-0 for the championship, the Warriors’ sixth overall and fifth under Greco.
Frei, one of seven seniors on the team, said he’ll remember more than just a state title.
“Coach teaches you lessons that you’ll be able to use after baseball is finished,” he said. “When he talks about work ethic and life goals, you know those are things that will stay with you.”
Westside Athletic Director Tom Kerkman said Greco, who also teaches math at the school, is a worthy recipient of this year’s award.
“I see how Bob works with the kids on a daily basis, and I’m not just talking about the baseball players,” he said. “He’s a great motivator, and we’re very lucky to have him here.”
Greco, who played high school baseball himself at Omaha South, has more than 450 career varsity victories. But the coach is quick to add that his family — Cathy, his wife of 25 years; daughters Chaeli and Chelsea; and son Joey — has played a vital role in his success.
“Without their support, I could never do this,” he said. “They’re up here at the baseball field all the time helping me with different things, so we’re really like a team.”
Greco, who maintains a strong connection to former players by having an alumni game each year, said those relationships help keep him going.
“To think I’ve had a positive impact on their lives is a big thing with me,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people over the years through coaching, and I’m grateful that I’ve had that opportunity.”
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