1. Pursue Your Dreams & It Will All Work Out
Having a great love and appreciation for the game, my dad lived out his days of playing football and he wasn’t entirely ready to give up the sport. The next logical step was to make a career out of coaching the game he loved. While teachers and coaches aren’t the best paying professions on the planet, they can be some of the most fulfilling. I will always admire my dad for doing something most people do not have the courage and ambition to do – finding what makes them happy and making a life out of it.
2. Believe In People
As a coach, you are exposed to varying levels of athleticism all throughout your career. In most seasons, the best you can hope for is a standout player and a few other good playmakers. Sometimes, in a career as a coach, something really special happens and you are fortunate enough to witness true athleticism in its most beautiful form – by someone who was born to play the game. Coupled with a heart that loves the game, they can become a true force as an athlete. There are also times when an athlete will let you down, which can be particularly disheartening. As a coach, you have to believe in your team, believe in your athletes, and most importantly, believing in yourself. I’ve watched my dad develop such emotional relationships with his athletes. Even through bad games, bad grades, and bad attitudes that come with the territory of working with teenagers, my dad believes in his athletes and their ability to succeed.
3. Develop Thick Skin & Don’t Get Your Feelings Hurt
In many small towns, sports are all they have left. You have season ticket holders that have consecutively held the same seats for 37 seasons. You have alumni that insist on never missing a game. You have that “volunteer coach” who hangs around the sidelines remembering his past or living out childhood dreams. There is a great sense of pride associated with small town sports.
When the team is winning, all is well and you can expect to have packed stands, enthused cheerleaders, and a great deal of community support. It’s during the losing seasons when morale is low that everyone is looking for someone to point fingers towards. Regardless of the lack of athletes, motivation, support, funding, or other things out of his control in the eyes of the general public, a lost game is always the coach’s fault.
People talk and people are mean. A community that stood behind and publically supported the hire of a coach becomes ready to send him packing after his first loss to the cross town rival. Admittedly, there are times when your dad is going to make a bad call, miss a play he should have seen, or lose his temper to a referee. As a coach’s kid in the stands Friday night after Friday night, you are going to hear more negativity about your parent than any kid should ever have to endure in regards to both their professional and personal character. You have no choice but to learn from the start to take other’s opinions with a grain of salt, and no matter what any washed up ex-quarterback says, at the end of the day your dad is still tied with Leo Dicaprio for coolest guy in the world.
4. Family Is Important
My dad coached at a different school district than the one I attended all of my life. As a result of wanting to support him, I always went to his games instead of my schools. I took a lot of criticism for this from the people I went to school with. Sometimes, it was frustrating that I couldn’t be in two places at once, but I will never regret the opportunity I had to support my dad win or lose game after game.
Coach’s kids have an opportunity that most kids with parents of different professions don’t get. Instead of only having their parents to support them as they pursue their dreams, coach’s kids also get to cheer on their parents. Through every bad game, negative newspaper article, and critical internet post, my family got that much stronger.
It’s important for parents to support their children in pursuing their dreams and goals, but it’s also important for children to cheer on their parents when they can. At the end of the day, your family is one of the most important things you have. They are going to support you win or lose. But for the sake of your general mood for the rest of the weekend, we really, really, REALLY hope that you pull out a win, Coach.
5. You Win Some & You Lose Some
Literally. Sometimes you are going to lose a game that you really wanted to win. Sometimes, you’re going to win a game that not a single member of the newspaper panel picked you to win. Sometimes, your team is going to have an amazing night and all of the stars are going to align just perfectly under that September sky and you are going to beat the number one ranked team with the coach that you just really can’t stand. Sometimes, you are going to lose to a team you know you were capable of putting the mercy rule on. There is no predictability in sports and that’s part of the magic of the game. On any given night, in any given game, anything can happen. The underdog can prevail if it’s his night to shine.
6. Life Is Unfair
Just like referees are unfair. You really have no choice but to grit your teeth and just deal with it because if you throw things and stomp your feet or yell obscenities, you’re just going to get kicked out of the game and written about in the newspaper. Accept the call that life gives you, play clean to prevent it in the future, and hope for a better one next time.
7. Do What You Think is Right; Regardless Of What Others Say
Maybe your particular brand of offense is a little risky. Maybe the last coach ran wishbone and it worked just fine, but you see far greater potential in a running game. You write the playbook in the game that is your life. Make educated decisions with the use of reason and stick to your guns. There’s always going to be someone who would have made a different call than you, but if you don’t think it is best for YOUR game, don’t run it. If you fail, which at times you will, expect there to be those to point out what you should have done, could have done, and what they would have done. Respect their opinion, but know that it’s not their game to coach.
8. Take Risks
Life is a series of calculated risks and sports are a series of extremely calculated risks. You can know the playbook by heart. You can know every fake like the back of your hand. You can know without a shadow of a doubt that your players can perfectly execute a play because you have seen them do it one thousand times before in practice. But every play, every snap of the almighty ball, still carries with it a risk. A risk that the pass will be intercepted. A risk that the kick will fall just short of the goal line. Even a risk as unaccounted for as a shoe string on a cleat coming untied and a player tripping into an offside penalty. You can have everything planned just perfectly, but there are times when things just don’t work out. Through sports, we learn you can settle for predictability, but the biggest risks pay off with the biggest rewards.
9. You Have No Choice But To Develop A Love For Their Sport
In my house, we live, eat, sleep, breathe football. In my house, we called the hogs religiously and Sunday (Okay, and Monday too) was a day for the Lord and the Cowboys. My dad and I are actually both still a little upset that my mom wouldn’t go along with naming me Dallas.
An appreciation for football is largely forced by the fact that it’s on every TV in our household August through February. I will admit, I initially resisted the football craze that overwhelmed my home and my father, but eventually fell under the enchantment of what I can call without hesitation, the greatest game ever played. Naturally, I now attend the same SEC school I was raised to love since I got my first infant-sized Arkansas Razorback cheerleading outfit and my love for football has only grown with my attendance of a school where the world stops on Saturdays when the Razorbacks storm into Reynolds Stadium.
In the south, waiting for football season is like waiting for Christmas, only worse because Christmas doesn’t hold the anticipation of another chance to beat LSU. In the home of a football coach, we watch football August-February and wait for football March-July. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t a football fan, but I can imagine a lot less quality time spent with my dad. Some of my favorite memories have been tailgates and BBQ’s cheering the hogs we love on to victory and in the stands of Seminole Stadium in small-town Osceola, Arkansas watching my dad pull out an upset.
10. Your Dad Makes Dreams Come True Every Friday Night
And that’s awesome. Sports have such an overwhelming power of bringing people together.
I challenge you to find a greater camaraderie than that of two die-hard fans of the same SEC school. Two people who barely know each other can find one of the most intimate forms of connection by discovering a mutual love for a team or a sport. On a Saturday Game Day in the south, you truly feel like you’re spending the day with 68 thousand of your closest friends hopefully celebrating a victory or unfortunately mourning a loss. Sports truly unite those of all kinds. That is, until you put an LSU fan and an Arkansas fan in a confined area. But at least they’ll have something to argue about.
High School Sports have the same effect. They give the community something to believe in. Something to watch grow and develop as the season progresses and athletes refine their skill. They bring the town together from all social classes, professions, and walks of life for a few hours on Friday nights to be a community and take pride in the team that represents them. Coaches make dreams come true for athletes by providing them a stage to show their talents and an opportunity to purse bigger dreams through hard work and diligence.
Coaches make dreams come true for those alumni in the stands who played on the same field and wore the same colors forty years ago and would give anything for just one more game. Coaches make dreams come true for parents who dream of better opportunities for their children than they had themselves. They make dreams come true for the diehard fan with every single win, especially against the rival team, when bragging rights are established. Coaches make dreams come true for anyone who is looking for something bigger than themselves to believe in. Coaches make dreams come true every Friday night by letting the legacy that is American sports live on.
Most kids are proud of their parents for some reason or another. Maybe they’ve been to the moon. Maybe they’re waiting for just that right moment to announce they cured cancer. Almost all of the presidents have had children and they have to be pretty proud of their parents. Well, at least the Republican ones. George Strait has kids and he’s pretty much the coolest guy on the planet.
I’m sure that there are many people that will argue there are much more important careers than high school football coaches. Doctors probably save more lives. Nuclear Scientists make more money. The President controls the free world. Admittedly, those are all pretty cool ways to make a living but I’ve got to say I couldn’t be more proud of my dad and his career as a high school football coach. I’ve been blessed to be raised by someone who is passionate about his career and who has inspired me to always follow my dreams while teaching me some pretty important life lessons along the way. Also, along the way, I’ve picked up on jusssssst enough about the sport to impress boys, and that’s always a plus.