Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank God for Football Season

The 2010 Football season is here and not a moment too soon. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the Baseball season and I'll watch the finals in Basketball (not the same since Bird and Magic left). Hockey, well I doubt I could even name a dozen players and those I could name would be on the Devils. Soccer, if they played that more than once every 4 years I might follow it more. But come early September the weekends are a wee bit more interesting and while I enjoy the NFL, its the Saturday morning games that grab my heart.

If you have ever been involved in the great game of football, as a  player, coach or just a die hard fan you understand what I mean. I was lucky enough to coach at the "Pop Warner" level for 15 years. My wife ran the snack bar and all of my kids were involved - the lads played and the ladies cheered. That was one of the greatest stretches of time in my life. Most of the friendships I have today all started when I coached their kids in the program. Hell, many of the kids I coached then are friends now!

The world was a simpler place back in the early 80's. MTV first appeared on the music scene, Pac Man was in every corner bar in the country. Michael Jackson gave us "Thriller", the largest selling record of all time and Compact Disks shoved 8-tracks into the closet. Our football program was more of a babysitting service back then. Parents would drop their kids off at 6pm and pick them up around 8pm. They trusted us and they had no reason not too. The kids listened to us, never any back talk, never any lip.

We tried to make practice fun for the kids. We never called a player out for making mistakes, we would pull them aside and correct the problem out of the spotlight. We had drills the kids enjoyed, relays at the end of practice. We worked hard on the fundamentals, they learned the game the right way. If a player brought in an "A" test score from school they were excused from sprints at the end of practice. I did fine the players, mostly for being late to practice. The fine was always a bag of Peanut M&M's, my favorite snack at the time. How could I ask for money?

We always had a "Coaches Meeting" after the Friday practice, as our games were usually played Saturday mornings. We'd meet at Nellies, a local restaurant famous for their thin crust pizza. After several pies and more than several pitchers of brew-ha-has, we would head back to my house for more in depth strategy planning. The bigger the game the next morning, the later we would be up working on the game plan. Of course, libations would be flowing the whole time. Ah, Junior Football, full of late nites and early mornings!! Advil was always a breakfast staple!!

Games always went too fast, winning or losing. I can honestly say, back then winning was not the most important thing. Of course we played to win, but we also made sure all the kids got in the game. We made sure the kids had fun, got them as much playing time as we could. Sure a game or two might have been lost because little Johnny needed more plays, but most understood that.

In the 15 years I coached I don't recall any problems, and confrontations with parents. Sure, they would question some of the plays I called and when reviewing the films at times I could not blame them! But no one ever got into my face on how good their kid was, how they should be starting over someone else. I always tried to be fair and if I had doubts I would confer with the other coaches. Parents appreciated all the hours we put in over the season. It's changed now, many think their players are going to be superstars, full rides to college, make the Pro's. They push their kids hard, take them to camp after camp. It's a damn shame. Life is too friggin short as it is and childhood is shorter. Let kids be kids as long as they can. The real world sucks much of the time.

My oldest grandson has been playing for a few years now and my second oldest is just starting. My youngest son is coaching the freshman at his Alma mater. Once again weekends are filled with the game, my only problem is  trying to get to all of them!

There is a quote, not exactly sure how it goes or who said it but it goes something like this "In the game of football you might miss a block, drop a pass or fumble the ball ~ but never forget how lucky you are just to be able to play the game" Amen!!


  1. Amen - no sound better than crunshing shoulder pads and football whistles.