Thursday, August 21, 2014

When The Game Is More Than A Game

Tomorrow is a big day at my parents house and many other houses across the state of's the official beginning of high school football!  It's a day that my Dad has been preparing for since November 23, 2013...the day after the season ended last Fall.  For those of you who do not know, my Dad has been a high school football coach for almost 40 years.  I grew up around "the game", I've been to more stadiums than I can count.  Friday nights in the Fall always meant that we were headed to a game.  My Mom and I have seen it all and sat in monsoon like rain, 100 degree temps, 30 degree temps and my personal favorite, snow!  We have been part of a team that had one of the worst records in the state and a team that was the state champion.  There was a 10 year gap from the time my Dad retired until he coached again and I will tell you, I never dreamed we would miss it like we did. Football isn't just a game to us, it is life.  

When I was growing up I never understood the big picture and the impact he was having on his players.  My Dad can remember the names of almost every player that has come his way.  He also can tell you about their families, where they lived, and the position they played. When you are 7 and your dad spends the majority of his time with other kids it is hard to understand.  I never got that Dad uses coaching as a ministry until I was 31 years old.  He has been a father figure and mentor to many, many young men who didn't have a dad or someone to look up to.  My Mom tells of how we came home from church once to find a player waiting in our driveway just because he needed someone to talk to. I remember a time when a player needed dress clothes for Senior Day and Dad let him borrow his suit jacket and tie.  I remember the time last Fall when a former player from 25 years ago walked up to our table at Longhorn to introduce his son to my Dad. Those moments are what makes the time away from our family worth it.  To know that by sharing my Dad with 1,000s of football players over the years he has made an impact on their lives.  

My Dad is one that gives 150% in everything he does.  This isn't more true than in his career. He spends countless hours reviewing film, breaking down offenses, defenses, and planning the next game.  I can call their house at 10:00 on a Tuesday night and ask what they are doing and my mom will almost always say "watching film!"  Coaches work hard and until you live with a coach you don't understand just how much heart, sweat, worry, nerves, bottles of Tums, and even tears go into a season.  As a child I heard comments about my Dad and other coaches that no child should ever hear about their parent.  My heart still breaks when I hear those things said knowing how hard coaches work. I always want to turn around and yell "how would you do if your job depended on the actions and decisions of a 17 year old kid?!"  Those actions and decisions can make or break a coach's career.  Think about that for a minute.  I learned early on to turn the other way and ignore the "coaches in the stands" that think they know more than the coaches, however even as an adult I find that heartbreaking. If only they knew how much time and energy went into that play or game they are critiquing. Every Friday night before I get out of the car I pray "Lord, please let the game be fair and help me ignore any ugly words and keep my mouth shut."   
I was lucky growing up.  Not only did I have a Dad who loves me, but I had a fabulous Mom who worked a full time job, but was basically a single mom in the Fall and made sure she never missed anything of mine at school or dance.  She has always been supportive of my Dad and his career.  She has prayed for countless kids by name and cheered for them all by name.  We have no clue how many football dinners and banquets she has been to!  We have been to who knows how many weddings, a few funerals for players parents, and Lord knows we have jumped and yelled louder than anyone on Friday nights.  I had to laugh when my cousins came to a game and were shocked how loud and into it we got.  Unlike me and my Dad, my Mom isn't very outspoken...unless it's time for football!  I just had to share this ecard because I'm convinced whoever wrote this one knows my Mom and I (and any other coaches wife and daughter out there!)
God gave my Dad and thousands others like him, a chance to impact the lives of teenage boys and make a difference in their lives.  Football gives opportunities to kids who may never have a chance to go to college or get out of a bad situation without it.  This is why football will always be more than "just a game" to my family.  It is my Dad's job.  It paid for my education, provided us with food and a home, and most importantly, allowed my Dad to make a difference.  And that is why football is more than "just a game" to our family and thousands others just like our family.