Some days are harder than others in the coaching world. There are stories about young players who fall to untimely death, years when the coaches face personal illness, and records that people wish could be forgotten. However, sometimes the things that stick with us in this life have nothing to do with the field house.
I planned on writing about the cyclical nature of football offenses. I planned on talking about the imminent doom facing the young coach who has never defended the flex-bone or can’t understand that the odd front is not a complex as it looks sometimes. I wanted to write about the need to modify the spread when you’re down on speed but up on strength. I wanted to discuss the sleeping nature of offenses that incorporate misdirection to help the run game.
But something became very apparent to me this week as we look at playing on Halloween. This doesn’t come around often when we must pick between traditionally family focused fun nights and game night. I’m blessed to have kiddos who just want to be together on Friday nights to watch their oldest brother play ball. But as I think about the student athletes on the field, I realize that many of them are fighting between being leaders and indulging in the lifestyles of their peers. Tonight I witnessed a coach mentor a student athlete who felt pressured to attend a Halloween party that was advertising drug use and underage drinking. Of course, the coach explained how one night could effect his entire future. He shared with him about the young athletes across the country who lost scholarships over social media pictures and inappropriate tweets. He asked him who he wanted to look back and see in his mind 20 years from now; a young man who did things right and had nothing to hide or a kid who had to hide everything to look right.
It was particularly appropriate to me that I overheard him saying this to a young man. Our middle child is gifted both intellectually and athletically. I know parents always say they have kids who are way awesome and should run the world someday, but our son is freaky blessed. He is playing football for the first time in his life, starting as QB and is undefeated. He is number three in his class and works diligently at perfecting his juggling skills because he is interested in theatrical pursuits. Seriously, be jealous.
His recent discovery of girls and his elevated social status has lead him to “perform” in class lately. This is a new obstacle for us as parents. My husband and I attended a meeting today with three of our son’s teachers. In the meeting, we discussed the behavior issues they noticed in the last two weeks. I immediately knew that he would need to be removed from athletics if this continued. My husband did not agree. He made his argument and I made mine. Ultimately, we decided to discuss the choices our little guy needed to make to become a better person. We came to the conclusion that those choices had little to do with football and everything to do with character.
Today I learned that football is a vehicle that we use to mold men. It’s a way in to helping to fill the world with good character. The hardest calls a coach makes come when he has to be a father. My husband, and many other coaches, have to be fathers to so many young men. It’s nice to know that one stupid game gives them the opportunity to do that. I can only hope that it always works out for the best and everyone makes the right choice.
Moorea Coker teaches AP Literature and adjuncts at a Junior college in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @polypel88 or reach her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org