The process is more important than the win

Courtesy photo Big Piney High School Head Football Coach Aaron Makelky, shown with his players during the 2018 season, was chosen by his peers to coach the South team for the Shrine Bowl in June.

Big Piney Coach Makelky honored to lead Shrine Bowl team

BIG PINEY – When Aaron Makelky

signed on to be an assistant coach for Big

Piney High School’s football team, the

Punchers were struggling. They ended

their season with eight losses and not a

single win. Some of the players dropped

out of the program.

The head coaching position opened up

before the start of the next season.

“Who would be dumb enough to take

on that post?” Makelky thought.

That autumn, Makelky found himself

on the field as the Punchers’ new head

coach. Where others saw failure, he saw


“Big Piney was a powerhouse through

the ‘90s,” he said. “I figured, it’s been

done before, so let’s do it again.”

The Punchers did not make it all the way

to the finals that year. Rather than aim for

a short-term victory, Makelky focused on

long-term goals. He and his players and

other coaches worked methodically to lay

the foundations for a sustainable football

program capable of packing a punch year

after year.

“Every kid in America wants to win on

Friday,” he said. “But the process of becoming

better is more important than the

win. When the kids and coaches are really

fired up for a practice on Tuesday, when

we focus on the process, not the outcome,

that’s where we get better.”

In 2017, the hard work paid off. Big

Piney hosted their first home playoff game

in almost 10 years, and defeated Newcastle,

42-14, to advance to the semi-finals.

Shrine Bowl

Makelky was honored this month when

the Wyoming Shrine Bowl’s board of directors

named him to serve as the head

coach for the “South” team at the organization’s

annual fundraising game scheduled

in June.

Makelky’s peers nominated him out of

a pool of 29 other coaches from schools

across southern Wyoming.

“When they picked me, I was surprised,”

he said. “It is absolutely an


Every summer, teams selected from

southern and northern Wyoming battle

it out on the gridiron in Casper to raise

money for Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.

Makelky will choose a staff of five

additional coaches from schools in southern

Wyoming to assist him on the field.

The staff will then pick a roster of players

from a list of outstanding high school seniors

submitted by all the coaches in the


“The six of us sit down and have a fantasy

football style draft of the best players,”

Makelky said.

Thirty-six top athletes will make the

cut, along with 12 alternates. Makelky

said he hopes that several players from

Big Piney and Pinedale will make the

team. The Shrine Bowl board of directors

will release the final rosters in the coming


Building a team

Makelky played as a tight end and defensive

end on his high school football

team. His father, Big Piney Principal Jeff

Makelky, was the head football coach at

the time. Aaron Makelky witnessed the

fulfillment his father found with coaching.

In college, Makelky set his sights

on becoming a football coach and high

school teacher in social studies.

“I was one of the few kids who didn’t

change their major,” he said.

During his college years in Montana,

Makelky officiated at high school football

games to get to know coaches in the area.

He was eventually hired as an assistant

coach for one of the teams.

“This was sort of like an internship,”

he said. “And it reaffirmed to me that, oh

man, coaching is going to be fun and I

can’t wait to work with kids.”

The 2018 season was Makelky’s eighth

year teaching social studies at BPHS and

seventh year at the helm of the football

team. For Makelky, football is about

work, commitment and building relationships,

not wins and scoring.

“The relationships that you build with

the kids supersedes the trophies that will

get old and rusty,” he said. “The kids outshine

the scores, games and wins.”

Makelky teaches young players about

commitment to the team, not just on Friday

night under the bright lights, but at

practice every day and in the off-season.

He encourages “multi-sport athletes”

to build a sense of community between

sports programs and an attitude that

“we’re all in this together.”

Football parents started to organize team

dinners every Thursday while Makelky was

head coach. The dinners tighten the bond

of brotherhood on the team, a brotherhood

you “can’t buy,” he said. They also

provide an opportunity for growing future


“The little brother might be inspired by

his big brother at the table and say, ‘Hey,

I want to get stickers on my helmet someday.’”

Big Piney’s victory over Pinedale was

a highlight of the team’s 2018 season,

Makelky said. The Punchers defied expectations

and broke Pinedale’s record of

winning every Sublette Shootout on their

home turf.

“The kids really embraced the underdog

mentality,” Makelky said. “They were the

first group of seniors to beat Pinedale in

Pinedale. They said, ‘We can go in there

and beat them when no one expected it.’

Building a foundation in football is about

consistently setting high expectations for

kids. Here’s the bar and it’s not going to

move. Ninety-five percent of the kids will


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