A coach’s reflections: Pigskin, progress, potential

Coach Jason Smith and football team, October 6, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Jason Smith, St. George News

FEATURE – “Hey coach; how’s my blocking?” he asked as he ran off the field. “Great,” I said and hit the top of his helmet, “just great, you are doing great.” The young player smiled and said, “thanks coach.”

Another: “Coach! Coach! did you see my tackle?” I responded, “Yes, It was totally AWESOME!”

These are sounds that are music to my ear on a Saturday afternoon in the blistering Southern Utah sun. I coach an eighth grade football team. Young men, 13 and 14 years old, caught precariously between being rambunctious boys and serious men who will be driving, dating and worried about their hair, cars, job, and prom sooner than anyone can realize are playing out their last year until football gets ultra-competitive in high school.

Youth football, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 3, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Jason Smith, St. George News
Youth football, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 3, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Jason Smith, St. George News

We are deep in our season, have been practicing now for over eight weeks, three times a week in the hot, hot desert sun and a game every week for the past five weeks. It’s been a grind, it’s been a joy, it’s been mentality taxing, it’s been mentally refreshing, it’s been too much, it’s not been enough …

I’ve loved every minute of it.

I inherited this team when no one else could coach this year. I remember talking to my wife and saying, “how can I come up with the time to coach,” then she reminded me that this would be my last chance to ever coach one of my children as the other three are already gone, I quickly said, “I’ll do it,” and looking back I’m very glad I said “yes.”

In our latest game we lost by a touchdown, again – we have lost three games by one touchdown and one in overtime, we are 1-4 on the season. Most would say that is not a successful season, but I will argue that assessment with every ounce of energy I have as a coach.

I’ve seen a painfully shy kid who never spoke a word an entire prior season open up, set goals and become a successful leader. I’ve seen kids that I honestly thought would never set foot on a football field work hard every day and become a starter and play the whole game. I’ve seen kids who come from troubled backgrounds become involved in something that is one of the most positive things in their lives to this point. I’ve seen an asthmatic kid face the very real fear of having an asthma attack on the field, fight through that episode and learn to play and control those episodes while playing at a high level.

I’ve seen kids overcome personal challenges and learn to become men. I’ve seen kids who never played football overcome their fears and become really good players in one season. I’ve seen kids who were picked on at school gain the self-esteem that they never had – self-esteem that I hope carries them onto the greatness that I see inside them. I’ve seen kids bond together and learn the value of teamwork; not the teamwork from winning, but the teamwork of a team that keeps grinding week after week, close loss after close loss, yet never gives up and continues to fight every game.

A friend of mine who coaches once told me “either you win, or you learn,” and we have learned a lot this season.

After our loss on Saturday, I looked at my boys; they all had smiles on their faces because they realized that they played as hard as they could and really that’s all you can do. But, as John Wooden once said:

Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

My boys are wildly successful this season.

I never realized how much these little men would teach me over the course of this season. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to “enjoy the moment.”

At the end of our practices as we finish the day and the Hurricane sky is a fire-red, orange glow and the sun slides into night, I take a minute to reflect on how great life is, how short life is, how fast little boys become men, and how blessed I am to spend some time not only with my boy- but 21 other boys who teach me about life, fun, enthusiasm and how to be in and enjoy the moment.

Our season is over in one week and although it’s been long season and I welcome the additional time back in my schedule, I’m sad that it’s over and wish we could play just one more time to see how much better we can get, and how successful we can become.

If you ever get a chance to coach, DO IT, but please make sure that you enjoy the moment – it will be over before the whistle blows if you aren’t paying attention …

Written and submitted by Jason Smith, Hurricane

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