My high school football coach died a week ago. He was 88. That’s incredible. He would have been 38 when he coached me. Wow! He was an old man then. Everyone faces this. Someone that made a difference in your life dies. There is no surprise in this. It happens all the time.
I read about this just last week. Shortly after finding out this news, I started seeing things written by old team members.
Coach had a certain way with words. Not a good way, but just a way. He would see a group with some people missing. “I see a lot of faces that aren’t here today.” Some of the things he said made no sense at all. Other things only became apparent after many years had passed. You finally understood what he was telling you would be important later in your life.
Most coaches are like that. They not only teach you about sports, they teach you about life. Sports involve risk of injury. Some injuries are small. Bumps, bruises, and little sprains are just part of football. No matter what the injury, if you ran a little bit your injury would be healed. “Coach, I think I broke my wrist.” “Run it off.” A sore muscle could be healed by rubbing on some heating cream. If that didn’t work you could always soak in the whirlpool. “Put some heat on it” or “soak it!” would be prescribed if you couldn’t run.
Running seemed to be the cure for everything. If you slacked off, “run a lap.” All these laps were really meant for our good not really punishment. Now all these things seem a lot clearer after the passing of 50 years.
Just like that 50 years went by since playing in my last high school football game. Almost as quickly, those old teammates went on to do different things with their lives, careers, homes, families and the things that we all do took up time. That time seemed to go by in a hurry.
It is interesting reading comments that people wrote about things that happened so long ago. Amazingly, the remembrance of the old teammates and the times we had are recalled almost effortlessly. Strange that we can remember these things that only took up a few months of our young lives.
Some tales come back to life that you can never forget. We used to do a football drill. Two players would line up across from each other. The coach would throw a ball on the ground and the two players would fight for the fumbled ball. We would form two lines and the drill would begin. Sometimes it would work out that a big player would be against a very small player. The coach was always trying to motivate us to be better. One such mismatch came up.
The coach told the smaller player that he needed to pretend the football was a one hundred dollar bill. The coach threw the ball between the two players. The smaller player didn’t move. The coach started yelling. “I told you to pretend that ball was a hundred dollar bill.” “Coach, I don’t need the money that bad.”
He only had to run two laps for that.