As most of you know, after going to the state finals three years in a row and winning one, I was unceremoniously fired this year at the ripe old age of 62 and replaced by an alumni! Although they gave supurfluous reasons - it basically came down to the fact that I was never wanted by the alumni in the first place!
That being said, it might sound strange to see me writing this article praising a sport that just abandoned me. Fact is this game will always remain great in my mind because of what I've seen it do over the years. Like the problems associated with the sport - it is not the sport itself but rather the people that surround it and their decisions that have changed public perception of the sport.
Before I begin I should state that I grew up in the era of BO, WOODY, and the BEAR. Icons that dominated the sport and dominated how the sport was perceived. This influence greatly reflects the writing that will follow as we are all a result of our past.
This game - this very simple game has taught me so much over the years. it has given me much more then I can ever return to it or the players who played for me. It has taught me humility, pride, sacrifice, hard work, love for my fellow man, strength in a group, goal setting and most of all the teamwork necessary to achieve anything in life. Through my players it has shown me the unlimited potential of the individual and power of the group to overcome adversity and defeat. It has shown me that despite critics the future is still in great hands with our youth as they are no different then we were at that age. But most of all it has shown me a series of young boys that have transformed into men exposing their character at every step for the better and worse.
Yes, I know their are many that will argue they get the same traits or bonuses from other other sports or even from their parents and teachers growing up and I agree with that to a point. However, there are uniquenesses to the game of football in general and high school in particular that make these experiences unique, concrete and reinforcing. As President Gerald Ford said: "I am sure there were lessons I learned in school I used in my Presidency but I couldn't tell you when or where they happened. However, the ones learned in football that I used are clear in their actual experience." (excuse he paraphrase - I heard him say this years ago.)
Additionally, in such a short time the combination of ALL these lessons and circumstances make football as a unique learning experience as there is. Parents can preach sacrifice for a goal but unless there is a visual and a experience of the actual emotion that goes with it the lesson is not reinforced. Baseball can teach teamwork but we've all seen the rare athlete who pitches a gem AND hits the winning homer in the same game. Basketball can teach selflessness but what about the star who never gives up the ball only to have his teammates stand around and gaze in amazement. (I know people are going to say what about the great runner or QB - the difference is the physical part. They get hit if their teammates don't prefer their rolls - not simply fouled.) I'm not saying that these other sports and experiences don't teach these traits - I'm just saying that anyone who has played this game the RIGHT way in the right program will tell you the experience is so much intense and exaggerated.
Hopefully I will take each one of these traits and do it proper justice. Hopefully by the time I finish this series you will understand why I feel this way. It is just my opinion - you may disagree and its your right. At the end I hope to view the problems in my eyes this sports is facing - both as a sport and as educational instrument (if that exist anymore in sports.) I have always felt that I have been blessed to be in this game and have unique view after 40 years, in high school and college, and in 11 different high school settings. As I said you may disagree but its just my opinion and you are allowed to.
The sacrifice factor!
Delaying instant gratification
And paying a bigger price then the award can be worth