Friday, September 7, 2007

My Coaching Debut

4th down and 3. Just over 2 minutes left in the game. The ball sitting right at midfield. No question in my mind as to what we were going to do. We were going for it.
I called a time-out and got the team together. I challenged our entire offensive line. "We're running right up the middle. This is all up to you guys. Can you fire off the line and push them back for 3 yards?" They assured me they could do it. I called the play in the huddle, ran off the field and watched the play.

Our 3rd string QB who had literally only taken a few snaps during practice handed off to our 2nd string tailback. 4 yards later, we had the first down. It was our first first down of the game in our 32-0 opening season loss. We ended up picking up another first down or two after that first one. To have a drive at the end of the game where we actually moved the ball a bit gave our kids some confidence and excitement.

I had hoped Prairie View's JV would be as bad as ours. Well, they weren't a JV. They weren't really a varsity either, their school has only one squad. But the boys on that squad were big and they knew what they were doing. The ref had to help our offensive line stay on the line of scrimmage and no matter how many times Coach Bartlett explained it to them, we kept having 3 d-linemen on one side and only 1 on the other. Obviously, explaining something 100 times in practice just isn't enough.

But I loved it! I love the game of football; I can't get enough. After practice this afternoon, Erin and I headed out to CBAC to watch the Olathe South - Olathe East (Erin's an East grad) game. Tomorrow is my day off and I'll watch football all day, ending with the Iowa-Syracuse game at night. I'm loving the opportunity to invest in these kids. After leading Tuesday's practice without the other coaches, I grabbed 3 hotdogs and a gatorade and went up into the stands to watch the 8th grade varsity game. A bunch of JV kids saw me and yelled out "coach, coach!" As I sat and talked with them about school, music and football, I was very thankful for the opportunity to connect with these kids.

I gave the kids a rousing pregame speech in the end zone right before we took the field. We grabbed hands, ran from the end zone to the sidelines while the crowd was cheering and (I kid you not) I had to fight back tears. I loved it!

A lot of the game was chaos. I wasn't really prepared for managing all the aspects of the game. It was about all I could do to make sure the receiver got the play into the huddle and we always had 11 guys on the field. Special teams really made me nervous. I didn't know I'd be managing the game until about a week ago, but even so I still probably wouldn't have been ready for all the little things I had to watch over. But Coach Bartlett (who said it took him about a year to get used to managing a game) kept me in line and the refs helped remind me of some stuff, too. There really is a lot of babysitting at this level. While on the sidelines I'd be trying to figure out which receiver was going in with the next play (all 3 of them looked so similar with their game jerseys and helmets covering their tiny little heads), helping a kid with his pads, explaining to a kid who had missed practices why he wasn't in the game yet, while hoping our 3rd string QB could get the snap from center. There was a lot of chaos, but it was great!!!

Just a few minutes into the first quarter, our starting QB came out of the game crying. I turned to our second string QB who is also our starting tight end and he said his back hurt too badly to keep going. Both QB's got drilled in practice two days earlier while scrimaging 8th grade JV. So, I turned to our back-up tight end who (on a whim) I'd told to study the QB plays, too. That also meant we were out of tight ends. So a kid nicknamed Pedro (looks like "vote for Pedro") who has a great attitude and work ethic volunteered to go in at tight end and I was just hoping he'd remember which side to line up on.

We fumbled some snaps, pitched the ball over the tailbacks head and some other crazy stuff. But as the game went on and the kids started to figure out how to fire out of their stance and how good it felt to run hard and to hit (and as the other coach called off the dogs) we started to gain a little momentum. We can only get better; I hope!

I looked at the schedule and all the rest of the games are against actual JV squads, so I hope those other JV's are as bad as us. Have I said that yet?

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