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The Steinbrenner High football team is returning shopping carts

The Lutz team’s coach is using the exercise to build character. Here’s his letter.
The Steinbrenner High School Twitter account. The football players at the school are building character by returning shopping carts.
The Steinbrenner High School Twitter account. The football players at the school are building character by returning shopping carts. [ Twitter ]
Published Jul. 18|Updated Jul. 18

Last week, I wrote a column dissecting the ins and outs of returning shopping carts at stores, examining the so-called “Shopping Cart Theory” that says the practice is a measure of human decency. You can read that here.

I heard from many readers with thoughts on the topic, including several pointing out that Aldi and Save A Lot solve this problem by holding your quarter hostage. But the most interesting letter came from Andres Perez-Reinaldo, head football coach at Steinbrenner High School in Lutz. He’s a big fan of returning shopping carts — so much so that he’s made the habit an integral part of the team’s work off the field.

Here’s the letter from Perez-Reinaldo.

• • •
Steinbrenner coach Andres Perez-Reinaldo.
Steinbrenner coach Andres Perez-Reinaldo. [ Times (2015) ]

Good morning!

I woke up Saturday morning to several people sending me the link to your column on returning shopping carts, and here is why:

I’m the head football coach at Steinbrenner High School. We are a football team that, over the last couple of years, has experienced quite a bit of success in what culminated in a state final four run in 2019. We are rarely the fastest or most athletic team on the field on a Friday night, yet our team was finding ways to win. We attribute this to our culture and brotherhood. We mention all the time, who we really are is projected on how we do anything and everything throughout our day, especially when no one is watching. Our players and coaches were eating up the culture.

Then our worlds got flipped upside down with COVID-19. Since then, we have still found success on the football field, but I feel it hasn’t been the same. Some of that culture has slipped away and been replaced by entitlement.

Last month, it was time to address some of these issues, so we got our coaches and players together at a team event. We talked about returning your shopping cart and what it means to do that. How we all have choices to make throughout our day that define who we are, and most decisions will come with little to no positive or negative consequence, but that returning that shopping cart is the beginning of us building back our culture for the same reasons you defined in your column.

Feel free to check out our Twitter account. We have been posting pictures of each other returning shopping carts, and the kids send pictures to each other doing the same thing.

It has become almost a mantra for us, something to hang our hats on this summer, and I wanted to thank you for your column and share this story with you.

Returning a shopping cart is a small action for each of us as individuals but collectively as our team, we are seeing it transform our culture.

Thank you for your column and for taking the time to hear the impact.

Coach Perez

Head Football Coach

Steinbrenner High School

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