Spring Journal #4: Try to have fun

Posted: April 21, 2012 in Coaching Chronicles, Memoirs
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It’s a novel idea, really.

Grown men in their 30s, 40s & 50s, who are essentially overgrown kids themselves, teaching actual kids how to be good at playing a game; sure there’s heavier themes involved around the plight of maturation and development of accountability, circles of atonement, good versus evil (as some would have you believe) – but, for the most part, the foundation of enjoyment from a sport like football can usually be traced back to the yards and streets of rural and suburban America.

I can still visualize the playing field that my friends and I would so routinely take: two telephone poles about 50 yards apart marked the end zones, cars scattered on the edges to provide landmarks for play calling or defenders for passing windows; unique to our field though (maybe not) were the telephone lines that needed to be avoided on all deep throws and kicks.  Even when my friends weren’t around, I would find my way out there.  My dad would instruct me to run routes.  Each one of our favorite players had a different designated route.  Jerry Rice was always a “fly” pattern; Russ Francis, and later John Frank and Brent Jones was always a “button hook”; John Taylor was a “slant” and for a Mike Wilson, I had to get into a 3-point stance…you get the idea.  Man, pops would lay it out there for me and I would have to run under it, most of the time catching the perfect spiral in stride…we knew what Joe Montana to Jerry Rice felt like, and we could get that feeling any day, right there in front of our house.

Eventually, as my friends and I got older, we just took it to the fields at the junior high and high school and from there our love of competition, skill and camaraderie fueled a life-long obsession with this kids game…at least for me it did.  Sessions with dad turned into practice with dad, and the seeds of affirmation were readily planted.  Somewhere along the line there the fun part became a little less important.  The lines are blurred, really, as to when that was.  I can’t put a finger on it.  All I know is there was then…and there is now.

Now, football is a job.  It can be rewarding, but there are also times when I ask, “why…why am I putting so much into this kid’s game?”  Energy, passion and time – it’s all soaked up into this never ending abyss, and when you least expect it you find a way to put in even more.  More than you thought you had.  It just keeps regenerating.

And then you have the kind of day that reminds you why you love being a bigger kid teaching a little kid’s game.  And you think, “how in the world could I spend my time doing something else? this is what I do, this is what I am…I am a football coach, and I love my job.”

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