Bothell High football special / The secret to coach Tom Bainter’s success

Bothell High quarterback Mitchell Muller discusses strategy with head coach Tom Bainter during the Cougars’ recent 4A Kingco championship win over Skyline High.  - ANDY NYSTROM, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter
Bothell High quarterback Mitchell Muller discusses strategy with head coach Tom Bainter during the Cougars’ recent 4A Kingco championship win over Skyline High.
— image credit: ANDY NYSTROM, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter

On the field, Bothell High’s acclaimed head football coach, Tom Bainter, is as fiery as they come. Off the field, however, the humble and mild-mannered coach is quick to remove the spotlight from himself and place it on his kids, and his staff, when asked about the Cougars’ overwhelming success since he took over in 2000.

In the past 10 years, Bainter has amassed a record of 93-21 (.816), while being named 4A Kingco Coach of the Year four times during that span.

“It’s a lot of things, but it starts with the student-athletes,” said Bainter when asked what has made Cougar football so successful as of late. “We have a group of kids that understands that you have to work hard to be successful. They’ve put in time in the weight room during the offseason, and during the football season, they’re fully committed to being the best they can be.”

The 44-year old Bainter, who celebrated his most recent birthday with his team’s 61-0 blowout victory against Stanwood Nov. 7, went on to laud his coaching staff for taking long hours to scout opponents and break down film, while maintaining a positive influence as role models for the kids.

“We have an administration here that supports our student-athletes very well, and then we have a community that is second-to-none in support of our football program,” Bainter explained. “I kind of came to the right place in the right time, and I’m very fortunate.”

Cougar ‘culture’

With Bothell being such a committed football town, drawing thousands into Pop Keeney Field on Friday nights, does coach Bainter feel any added pressure with so much community support?

“I don’t feel any pressure, I think it makes it fun,” he responded. “I’ve always been an inclusive type of coach and I always welcome our community and anyone that wants to be part of our program to come on in. Our student body does a great job with what they do and some of the traditions that they’ve developed over the years.”

Bainter, who coached at Shorewood High before joining Bothell, acknowledged that even after a lifetime in the sport, said he has never seen the fan involvement that the “Blue Train” displays week in and week out in support of the Cougars, a true “12th man” that has helped spur his team to success.

“Their support, their loudness during the games, that’s really neat and plays a huge role in that atmosphere,” he noted. “It’s just a culture in our school where we are just proud to represent the blue and white, proud to be Bothell Cougars. I think we have a community that feels the same way, and always has.”

Super staff

While Bainter gives a lot of the credit for the Cougars’ success to his extensive and experienced coaching staff, they echo the sentiment that he is the right man for the job.

“Coach Bainter has a lot of spirit and trusts his staff,” said Bill Christensen, who coached at Shorewood High with Bainter before they both came over to Bothell in the same year. “He believes in his message, and the message that the coaches on his staff send the kids. He’s really good at taking everybody else’s ideas and making it happen in the team concept.”

And perhaps no one knows that more than his players, who have sacrificed a lot at a young age to play under Bainter.

“He’s very dedicated, he puts a lot of work and time to what he’s doing,” said Bothell senior Mitchell Muller, the Cougars’ starting quarterback. “At practices he makes sure you want to be there, but coach makes everything really fun, and he’s energetic.

Life lessons

Bainter, a four-year letter winner at Western Washington University where he played free safety and defensive back, admitted that the most enjoyable part about coaching football are the relationships he develops with his student-athletes.

“You get to know a kid in class for that 50 minutes he’s there,” said Bainter, who teaches health and physical education at Bothell. “But when you’ve coached a kid and demanded from him, and his teammates have demanded from him... fighting through adversity and doing all the things you need to do to be the best you can be, you really get to see the character of these young men.”

Having been around the game since the age of 8, the 20th-year coach has seen first-hand the positive life lessons that can come from a kid playing football, something he is proud to help instill into his players.

“One of the great things that we try to foster and teach our kids through football is that the team is greater than the individual,” Bainter explained. “It’s very hard for some of us to put something else in front of our greatest needs or wants. But truly, that’s life.”

Wed 16 years to his wife Kristina, and a father of two sons, Bainter used the example of family to illustrate his point.

“When you get married, you have to put someone else’s feelings at least with yours, if not ahead of yours,” he explained. “When you have children and family, family’s got to come before us in order for the marriage and family to survive.”

Most importantly, Bainter compared a football season to being a microcosm of life, where hard work leads to success, while players have to learn how to deal with the emotional ebb and flow of the game.

“Life is full of ups and downs, and what better way than a football season to learn how to handle defeat and loss,” he said. “It teaches them adversity, commitment, dedication, hard work, effort -- all of those characteristics that make people successful I think you can learn in athletics, and certainly in football.”

The players themselves acknowledged that when the season is over and they have moved on in life, it is the things that go beyond the gridiron that they will remember the most about Bainter.

“Coach doesn’t just teach us about football, but also how to make us a better man,” Muller said. “He always taught us to do the right thing.”

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