Oz’s first year in football was the 6th grade. Ancient by some accounts. If it were hockey in Minnesota, they probably would’ve told him it’s too late. True story.
Now, admittedly, Oz isn’t a huge football fan. Loves to hang with the guys; practice; train, and get geared up for game day. Sure. But to sit and watch game after game on a Saturday afternoon? Uhhhhh, no dice. So his first year of football was more, ‘dude, what do I DO?’ than anything. Luckily for us, we had Coach Courtright who worked with Oz here and there to explain the lineman positions a bit more clearly and Oz still had fun even though play time was nearly non-existent.
Another day, I’ll talk about youth sports “Coach’s” who believe that winning at all costs in the 6th grade is all that matters instead of instilling a love (and an understanding) for the game AND learning how to be coached. But not today.
My expectations that first year for Oz was that he do his best and respect the coaches. That’s it. There were a few times I saw him goofing off on the sidelines. Not cool. Yes, common, they’re silly boys in the 6th grade. But not part of the deal. When coach is talking, you STFU.
When games started, I noticed two things. First off, the expectation of respecting your coach was not team wide. Never in my sports life as an athlete or a mom have I seen so many kids screaming back at coaches. It was unbelievable. In my not so humble opinion, more than eight kids on any given day should have been benched. But we had to win (which we didn’t.) So they weren’t. Secondly, also never in my sports life have I seen such ill behaved youth coaches. Look, ya know why Bobby Knight was so much fun to watch? Cuz our kids weren’t being coached by him. True story.
Pacing back and forth screaming constantly. Throwing your ball cap down on the ground repeatedly. Actually walking off the field in the middle of a practice; getting in your car, and driving home leaving a field full of kids wondering WTF they’re supposed to do now (these really happened. It was sublimely awesome in it’s stupidity.)
But we had Coach Courtright so looking at the big picture, we came out of it pretty good. Oz is still playing the game which is good. He works harder now but still doesn’t use his size or strength. I’m hoping a coach picks up on it and fixes it.That’s his job, not mine.If a coach comes around and equates holding the offensive line to the constant push at Omaha Beach, Oz will be ready for the next level in a week or two but they haven’t yet so we’ll wait it out and see if it happens.
The ‘Tosa kids are brats. The coaches are worse. Sorry I’m not sorry. I actually watched as the head coach’s son screamed from the sidelines that Dad was calling the wrong play and to SHUT UP! and guess what? Dad did. He shut up. Right there in front of everyone. It was mind numbing. From what I’ve heard it hasn’t gotten much better. Kids still whine. Coaches are forced to send a constant stream of e-mails explaining themselves to upset parents who never want to see their little Johnny upset. Completely fucked up. I’m glad Oz isn’t in the program anymore.
Fast forward to last Friday, Oz’s first High School football game. Now, last year, Oz’s middle school team played for the region Championship where they lost. That loss was their first of the season (bad time to lose a game.) They played the other district middle school earlier in the year and beat them by 50-something to 0. Ouch. However, most of those kids went to the other High School this year so Oz’s team is mostly made up of the “0” kids from that 50something-0 game. Which made the first game a bit tough.
Of course I had a blast. Getting to watch Oz do anything is a lot of fun for me; I volunteered to pull chains so had a front row seat and it was a beautiful, early fall day. The ref’s were great and helpful to the kids and Oz had some very nice blocks that resulted in some nice runs for his offense. Defense is still a bit of a mystery to him in that as he runs through their line, he just kind of stops instead of creaming the quarterback. Again, hopefully a coach can heal that.
Since I was pulling chains, I was situated on the opposing sidelines. The team they were playing was Robbinsdale Cooper. Now, I grew up north of Robbinsdale and there are two parts of the suburb. Huge homes on a beautiful parkway and lots of money, that was one end. The other was bordering Minneapolis proper and was about as inner city as a suburb could be. In fact, I counted 3 white kids on the team and one was on the sidelines with a splint on his finger so he was out of commission for at least that week.
Yes, I am making sweeping generalizations here. No need to call me out on it, I know. Don’t care. In most cases, sweeping generalizations have truth to them. Deal with it or stop reading. Don’t care.
So, on one side, we have A) the upper crust of Bloomington that goes to Jefferson. True story. These are, for the most part, kids from homes who (financially anyway) are doing a’ight. B) they remind me of the ‘tosa kids but are better behaved. On the field anyway. And on the other side is suburban inner city team with pretty decent coaches. One coach started jumping up and down at some point (I remember when I won my first game) but the other coach was on it and calmed him down. Reminded him of the example they wanted to set for the boys. (I should say here I assume Oz’s coaches and team do fine. He likes them a lot and says the boys are far more respectful to their coaches than the ‘tosa boys. I guess I believe him.)
But here’s what I saw that I liked on that Cooper sideline; whenever any Coach would give direction to a player whether it be from a screw up or not, the boy would look him in the eye and say, “Yes coach!” Not once was there back talk. Not ONCE was there whining. When a player was pulled to make room for another after the game was safely put away and was told he’ll sit the bench the last plays of the game, the disappointment was there in his eyes but all he said was, “Yes coach!” That’s it. Cheering for each other and Yes coach. And believe me, I was listening closely. Mostly because I couldn’t believe my ears.
And it wasn’t just the boys. At one point, one of the players had, what seemed like, a colossal screwup. One coach started yelling and another hot stepped over to him and reminded him that this was player’s first year and they need to be patient when he doesn’t exactly remember where to be. Coach A instantly changed his tone and by the time the player came off the field, he was told what to do next time and given a ‘good effort’ pat from the coach. I almost teared up.
That folks, is a youth coach.
Cooper won. By a lot. Oz came out of the locker room later smiling. That’s what Mom wants to see. He said the post game talk revolved around holes that the game brought to light to and they’ll work on those holes through the season. Coach also said that their hard work during two a days paid off and to enjoy the weekend off. As for Oz, all he said was, “I had a blast and I need food right now, we need to go eat.” So pretty normal 15 year old.
But those Cooper boys, I’ll remember them for a while. I hope good things for them, in football and beyond. They have a good start anyways.
If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.