Now that the Texas High School Football season is over, I can honestly look back and say this was the toughest season I have ever experienced. You do not realize how the added precautions change the way you work, and change the way you feel until you go through it.
The mask wearing;
The extra cleaning;
The checking of temperatures;
The daily wellness checks;
The schedule balancing;
The feeling of discomfort around anybody;
The constant cloud of potential games or players lost, and then potentially losing the entire season;
And everything else that goes along with a football season that you never really thought about before must now be addressed and all pile up on you and take you to the point of questioning if this was all worth it.
My answer came from the players, and the families, and the community.
Everyday in practice the kids were smiling and enjoying being with each other. Their attitude towards going to work this season ranks with the best teams of my career. I cannot recall hearing a collective groan towards any part. If I needed a kid to be on the scout team, he did it. If the rotation was off due to a player or two being absent, they worked it out and embraced the missing players when they returned. They genuinely seemed happy to do anything we asked of them, just for the opportunity to keep playing.
The parents were exactly what they needed to be, supportive of their child and coaches. As happy as the kids were to be playing, the parents seemed just as happy. They came to each game and provided much needed help with team events. They helped us by supporting the increased safety protocols, decorating lockers, and cheering on the team. The scene after each game was amazing, as proud parents waited eagerly at the front of the bleachers to see their child and talk to them. Many of them saw the pain and anguish experienced by last year’s seniors, and you could see they just wanted their child to avoid that from happening, if at all possible.
The last game of our season showed how much the community supported the program. They were unable to attend most games, since immediate family sold out most of our available games. Once the playoffs began, and stadium sizes increased, they showed up. And for the last game of the season, it was an incredible crowd. They started with a big send-off, lining our long parkway, cheering as we left on the bus. There were so many people lined up along the way it touched my heart, and even brought a tear to my eye. Being at the school for so long, I knew the community was there for us, but seeing it on display, in this setting, was an emotional, joyful experience.
This sounds idyllic, I know. I’m not suggesting there weren’t challenges, because there definitely were. You cannot have a season without them. But the positives definitely outweighed and overshadowed them.
For those teams who have played, I hope you experienced something similar.
For those programs who will play this spring, understand you will work harder than any other season before.
Now that we are here, I can definitely say I am glad we played. Let’s never have to do it this way again.
*Cover photo taken by Bob Calbert