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Interview: The Magic of Bob Ladouceur, Terry Eidson and the De La Salle Spartans

Terry Eidson and Bob Ladouceur (l. to r.)
Terry Eidson and Bob Ladouceur (l. to r.)TriStar Pictures

Is it magic? Is it a miracle? Or is it just good old-fashioned hard work and values? Whatever it is, together Bob Ladouceur and Terry Eidson coached the De La Salle High School Spartans to an unbelievable 151 game winning streak. That’s 12 years of football; the span of one student’s formative education from first through twelfth grades. It’s a record that has never been achieved by any other team in any sport, be it professional, college or high school, and likely never will be anytime soon. And it's head coach Bob Ladouceur and assistant coach Terry Eidson, the men behind the Spartans, who are now front and center in WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL.

Yin to each other’s yang, Ladouceur and Eidson are seemingly as different as night and day or, as Eidson describes it, “opposite personality.” With a twinkle in his eye, Eidson brags about his own “sarcastic humor”, something you readily believe within minutes of meeting him while a quiet and thoughtful Ladouceur is quick to note “our personalities are real close.”

Friends for 35 years, according to Ladouceur, “At the very core, the very things we believe that are very dear and true to us, are exactly the same. We both believe the same things. As far as education and how to handle kids and what we’re going for and the outcome that we want. . .We’re very different in a lot of ways, but we love each other. We respect each other and appreciate the job each of us can do.”

Reflective, Ladouceur has a conviction to him that is unshakeable. “I always felt as a kid I always tried to do the right things. It’s probably faith-based. I’m sure it. I was brought up in a church and I’m a believer in a higher power and that we’re all meant and destined to do something good and make a difference in other people’s lives.” But it’s not just faith and a belief in doing the right thing that has shaped Bob Ladouceur. It’s also the time in which he grew up. “I’ve always felt that I’m a product of the 60's, too. I was huge in the new movement in the 60's which was for peace and civil rights. I was always in that genre. I was always in that, ‘I want to do something to make a difference. I want to do something that’s gonna help. I want to do something that’s gonna help people.’” Coaching was a natural move for him. “It came natural to me. I felt real comfortable with the game and I understood the game well. I used that as a venue to get into the kids and get to know them.”

A perfect complement for running a team, Ladouceur approaches kids “in a very subtle way and one-on-one, usually” whereas Eidson “can grab a whole group of kids and get ‘em all fired up and get ‘em excited and get ‘em going.” But it’s teaching the kids about what’s important about the game of football itself that matters to both men - life lessons.

Seeing their coaching as a process, and part and parcel to the philosophy of Del La Salle as a whole, it’s not just one incident or event or idea that makes the team or turns the boys into men. As Ladouceur notes, “Usually by the time the kids get to us they know what we stand for and what we expect because they’ve worked themselves up through the program. It’s kind of indoctrinated into them as freshman. That’s when they’re probably the most impressionable. They’re at a new school and they’re wide-eyed and they’re trying to fit in. Our school is good about that. It’s good about humility. It’s good about [the idea] there’s always something bigger than yourselves and the collective spirit of a group is much, much better than one standing alone. We believe that. We try to promote that and live that.”

Eidson also believes that key to their success with the Spartans is that “We started young, too, and that helped, back in those days. Just like our head coach now is younger and I think he connects a little bit better with the kids now. When I started I was 22 or 23-years old and those kids are 16 and 17, so that’s not that big of an age difference right there.” Even in the early days of coaching, “[W]e were hard on them [but] they knew that we had their best interests in mind and that’s always been our philosophy. Lad’s always said, ‘I’m not your buddy. I’m your coach. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you and I don’t love you.’ We’ve always taken that approach with the kids.”

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is in theatres now. Starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Chiklis as Bob "Lad" Ladouceur and Terry Eidson.