Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why I do What I do

Today was one of the best moments I've ever had in the game of football.  No, we didn't win, nor did we lose.  There were no championship trophies hoisted in the air, or the sounds of fans screaming their heads off in the stands.  No, today, I was visited by some players I coached last year, and in one way, shape, or another, I was told "thank you for what you do coach".  I know this is an odd blog post, but I will digress some so you can understand.

Eight months ago a majority of the high school staff I was on, was basically run off.  The "higher ups" had decided we weren't good enough and didn't want to hear anything we had to say about what we needed to do to right the ship, so they kicked us to the curb.  One of these guys was a guy that was my offensive line coach when I played in high school.  This man had dedicated over twenty years of his life to the game of football in this small town in south Florida.  He was now basically exiled and never told why he was let go.  Twenty years of anything is a lot of time, but twenty years of football in this town, can be detrimental to your health.  Nonetheless this past summer when the local junior high head football coaching position opened up, he jumped at the chance.  Changing not only his coaching position of the last twenty years, but even his job.  The first guy he asked to go with him, was me, and I did.  I haven't looked back, as I've not wanted to.  The high school has been in a shambles with a young rookie coach, making tons of rookie mistakes, and numbers waining in the forties for an entire JV and varsity.  It has been a town divided over the past few months, even though I really don't think many people give a rat's ass about football here.  Anyhow, I've tried to ignore all the talk, and the kids have lit my phone and Facebook pages up over the past few months wondering how I was doing, what I was doing etc.  This as been nice, because as a coach you always wonder if you are making an impact.  Well, today showed just that. 

We don't have very good practice facilities at our junior high, but we make do.  The head coach decided that today we would load the kids on a bus and take them down to the high school and practice on a field with lines and hashes so we could learn to line up.  I had been reluctant about the idea the entire time, but I never said anything because I knew our players would enjoy the change in scenery.  Well, we were teaching them our pre-game warm-up routine, as we play this upcoming Thursday night, and that's when it happened.  I looked up to see some of the high school players climbing the fence around the practice field.  They were there to watch Saturday films, and had seen us practicing so they came over and hopped the fence.  It was as if the world stopped turning.  Hugs and tears were abound as we exchanged greetings and "how are you doings" and talked about last nights game.  To some, it might not mean much, but for what some of us have been through in such a close-knit community, to have this happen is actually a blessing.  The head coach resumed practice, but the players hung around, even after the time when they were supposed to be at their meeting.  Coach then talked to our players, and showed them, that our goal as their coaches was to get them ready to play high school football and turn around this dismal program.  He talked about the love of the game and the love of the fellow man, and it could not have been any more of a surreal experience. 

I don't write posts like this, as I'm not an emotional guy, neither is my buddy (the head coach), but both of us were moved by this wonderful moment today and I just had to share.  This is why I coach.  I haven't won in so long I've forgotten what it even feels like, however I won today.  Today was a victory, and one nobody can take away, even though there is no record of it, and there never was a scoreboard.  Today was what you work so hard for, and yet talk about very rarely.  Everyone talks about championships and trophies and winning state, but today, I got my biggest victory of all.  Most of all, I got reminded why I coach this wonderful game...the game they call football.

To those kids that showed up today and hugged my neck and shared a tear with us, I thank you.  From the bottom of my heart I thank you so much.  You will never, ever know just how much that meant to me today.  You've given me a new lease on coaching, and rekindled a flame that had almost gone out, and for that I'm forever indebted to you.  To the coaches that read my blog, never forget why you're there.  You're there to make a difference, to be a mentor, to love, to teach, and to hold dear the young men who's lives you touch.  Never lose sight of that, and no matter the wins and losses, you'll always be a winner in my book...