Saturday, August 04, 2007

Football Time Again

Know what I'm doing this weekend? Well, I'm not bumming out about Ryan Tucker's suspension and the impact it might have on what is still shaping up to be an improved Browns offensive line. It's not that Tucker's situation doesn't annoy me, it's just that something else a lot more fun is occupying my time this weekend.

I started things off after work on Friday by doing what I've been doing most weeknights for the last couple of weeks--standing around in the sweltering heat for two hours helping to supervise a bunch of kids and teenagers as they ran around a football field doing conditioning drills. I assisted the ones who got woozy from the heat and barked at the ones who weren't giving it their all. I handed out bottles of water to kids who forgot to bring their own, and occasionally swapped out a football helmet that didn't fit quite right for one of the half dozen or so that I've been driving around with in the back of my car for the last two weeks.

After drills were over, I headed over to the equipment room and spent a couple of hours helping the other coaches lay out the shoulder pads, jerseys, pants, pads, etc. that we distributed for three hours this morning. From there, it was off to the sporting goods store to pick up tape, ice packs, first aid supplies, new cones for drills, and a bunch of scrimmage vests to replace the ones that got destroyed last season.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be mapping out practice schedules for the first week of the season and putting together playbooks, last year's scouting reports, and instructions for the drills I'd like to run and then sending them around to the other guys I coach with. Then I'll go back to the sporting goods store to get some other things that I'll undoubtedly discover that I forgot today.

This may not sound like fun to you, but I'd rather do this than chase a golf ball any day of the week, and when my football team's season is gearing up to start, not even Ryan Tucker can mess up my mood.

I look forward to the start of the NFL season just like any other fan, but I've been coaching youth and junior high football for the past six years, and I look forward to the start of that season like kids look forward to Christmas morning.

Coaching football may mean staying up some nights until 3:00 a.m. doing work that I missed in order to get to practice on time, but it's a small price to pay for getting a chance to be 18 all over again every year. Even better, I get to teach kids how play one of the few remaining sports that doesn't either make them sell their souls to an elite travel team or insult their intelligence with an imbecilic "everybody is a winner" mentality.

Football is far from perfect. It's frequently cruel and like much else in life, is also often unfair. But for all of its faults, I can't think of another game that rewards effort the way that football does. You don't have to be a good natural athlete to be a respectable football player at the high school level. You can make yourself one by sheer hard work.

What's more, even if you will never become a starter, there's still a place for you on the team (thank you Hal Lebovitz, for helping to make it that way). There's a uniform for you to wear. There's a field for you to race onto on crisp Autumn Friday nights. There are teammates whom you'll never forget, and there's a crowd whose cheers will echo in your heart forever.

Most people never get to run onto a field and hear a crowd roaring for them, but that's the reward earned by every kid who runs, sweats, and pukes his way through "voluntary" conditioning workouts and two-a-days in the August heat in order to wear a football jersey. For a lot of kids, it's why they keep coming back to the game year after year, and for a lot of us, it's why we love to coach them more than just about anything else we do.


chocolate starfish said...

Of the many excellent Hornless Rhimo columns, I now have a new favorite ....

Hardaway Hates Pittsburgh said...

That sounds like a day well spent to me. What I wouldn't give for that opportunity right now.

Joey Peeps said...

Hey Starfish -- Next time you wish to give Rhino a hand job, just walk down the hall and do it in person, behind closed doors, thereby sparing us the sight.

chocolate starfish said...