Spending time coaching youth football was fun last year. This year has been spent doing other things with my time. Even through spending this year away from coaching, watching the kids play has been fun. They have played two games to this point. The jamboree to begin their season was missed, but I’ve made it to the two games. The perspective of watching the team play with the parents has been interesting. During the first game, viewing them involved standing at field level, just outside the fence. While, the second game involved watching them from about fifteen rows above the field. Going into this year, the idea of continuing to write about the games was appealing. However, it involves writing about players without being around them every day. A few of the players are remembered from last year, as the eight-year-old kids turn nine years old, remaining on the same team. But, many players turned ten years old and moved up a level, leaving space for the players who turn eight years old, and join the team. My buddies, son has remained on the team for his second season. I get to watch him play one more year at this level from a different vantage point.
The feeling of watching that first game from outside the fence was strange. With little knowledge of the team, there wasn’t much to look for. The coaching staff would be the same for this year. So, some of their plays would look familiar and the quarterback would look familiar. But, beyond those two factors, much of the team would probably be unfamiliar. Driving to watch the first game also provided a different feeling. Gone was the anxious emotions of being on the sidelines or being concerned over the outcome. My time of arrival didn’t matter to the degree of the year before. So, the forty-five-minute drive became one of leisure, even running behind. Arriving behind schedule, the game was already into the second quarter. We were already losing to the Wildcats, which felt unfamiliar. The previous year had been an undefeated season, until we lost in the championship. This game felt different from the first glance of the scoreboard.
The importance of who we were playing didn’t occur to me upon arrival. It wasn’t until my buddy came over from his coaching position during halftime. Our opponent was the same Wildcat team we played during the championship. The game began making sense after receiving the information. We had played the Wildcats twice during our previous season. The first meeting had gone into overtime, with the Jaguars pulling out the victory. It was one of the two games I missed during the season. Then, we played them again in the championship game, which ended our season. It was a messy day, with rain and cold temperatures. We began that game slowly and weren’t able to rebound. The championship wasn’t the contest it probably should have been. The Wildcats came out for redemption last November, achieving their goal. Even through that painful loss, it seemed we took away some valuable lessons.
Playing the Wildcats seemed challenging for much of the afternoon. Our Jaguars had trouble getting anything going. The plays looked familiar from the previous season. With the same coaching staff, there appeared an emphasis on running the ball. But, the holes for running backs to run through didn’t seem to be opening. It left me wondering if this year would be different from the last. There didn’t seem to be much hope as the game wore on. Then, there became hope as the clock wound down. With not much time left in the game something positive happened. The Jaguars have a new running back, one not seen last year. He seems tall for his age, standing noticeably taller than other players on the team. The ball was handed to him and the tall running back broke free. He scampered for what seemed like ninety yards. It was the entire length of the field and scored a touchdown. As he concluded the run, time ran out, and the first game concluded. The Jaguars lost by a fairly large margin, but the run showed something significant. That ninety-yard run to end a game they weren’t going to win exemplified their heart. It told us, this year’s team has a fighting spirit, unwilling to stop trying until the clock expires.
That final portion of the game took me back to coaching. It had me missing the involvement of encouraging the players. Helping them keep their heads up during a game that didn’t seem to be going their way. We did those things during practice last year, working through challenges to help them remain mentally tough. The lessons helped me become a stronger person as well. Spending this year away from coaching has left me missing those interactions. So much can be learned from the involvement of team sports, even as a coach. Teaching the kids how to play was fun, but I also received so much from the things they taught. Standing outside the fence felt bittersweet. Watching the game left me wanting to be more involved, missing the atmosphere of teaching and encouraging young men. But, also understanding there have been other projects that needed more time. So, doing some writing has become a way to hopefully contribute.
The game felt like a challenging start to the year. Throughout the afternoon there were moments of discouragement. The defense was giving up yardage and points. While, our offense was finding difficulty moving the ball. They were playing a team who had tested their skills last year and doing it with many new faces. The Wildcats had pushed our Jaguars to double overtime last season, then beat the Jags for the championship. Even through the seeming frustration of their first game, they didn’t give up. With those bittersweet emotions, it was fun to watch them play, and see the coaches coach. Writing about their journey through the first game also brings pleasure. So, we’ll see where the year goes after this loss. A loss the Jaguars didn’t have to face during the season last year. Hopefully that final run as time ticked down will be an indicator to what may come. We’ll find out as the year rolls on.