Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Trading places

I got a call from a sportswriter yesterday asking me if I knew any high school football coaches who would not be back next year. My first response was asking him if he was referring to me.

If he knew something about my future, please tell me. I just finished a season where we won just one game... it didn't seem far-fetched for some newspaper to wonder if I was going to be fired after the season we had.

After he laughed at my response for a few seconds, he politely said, "No, I wasn't suggesting you should be fired. I just heard that someone you might know was on his way out. But, if you tell me there isn't anyone you know of, than I believe you."

And that was the end of it. Or, at least, I thought it was the end of it.

While walking a few laps as a Physical Education teacher with some of my students, I noticed that I missed a call and had a message from my mentor and former head football coach.

"Hey, Brett. Happy New Year. I just wanted you to know that I talked to Brandon last night and he informed me that he resigned as football coach. I was shocked and just thought you should know."

If Coach was shocked, I was dumbfounded and bewildered by the news.

Coach is Brandon's dad and coached us both in high school in the late '80s. We both went off to college and later came back to work for the old man until 2002 when he finally retired after coaching for 30 years at the same school.

The logical choice to take over for his dad was Brandon. He had been around the football program since the day he was born. He was a ball boy for his Dad until he was in high school and he seemed destined to continue the winning tradition set forth by his father.

However, shortly after his dad announced his retirement, Brandon was hired as the head football coach on an Indian reservation in Arizona. It was a school that hadn't won a game in years, and in five years, Brandon has won four to six games in each season.

It may not seem like he accomplished a lot in wins and losses. However, he is almost a hero on the reservation for the the turnaround he had created.

I remember talking to Brandon after a win during his first season and he was laughing about how well he was treated by the Indians on the reservation. After each win, Brandon would go home to find packages of deer and elk meat carefully packaged for him on his doorstep.

I stepped away from football after both Dad and son left to try and put my life back together. My marriage had just ended and I thought it would be best to focus on being a single father and not worrying about working for a new coach that I didn't know.

I never regretted my decision to hang up my whistle and exchange it for diapers, bottles and car seats. That time was the most challenging and rewarding time of my life. But, I did miss football. I hoped that some day when my kids would be a little older and able to hang out at practices and games without my constant attention, I could go back.

When the new coach walked away from coaching football after three seasons, I took the job and have given it everything I had for the last two years. I have loved every minute of it and have taken great pride to coach at the school that I graduated from and one that is rich in tradition.

While Brandon was his Dad's ball boy for so many years, my four daughters can be seen on the sidelines during games working as water girls. They love being around the cheerleaders and football team and think it is pretty cool that their Dad is the Coach.

When Brandon and I worked together as coaches, he used to give me hell about having a wife at home calling every five minutes wondering when I would be leaving. Brandon was married to football and I can honestly say that I cannot remember him going on a date while we worked together.

It was, and always seemed to me, to be football and football only for Brandon.

That changed last May when I drove to Arizona and was his best man in his wedding. In October, he called and told me that he and his new wife were going to have a child this Spring.

And now he has stepped away from football. With everything that has changed in his life for the better, maybe I am not all that shocked with his decision.

After all, I walked away from football before so I could be a father to my babies. Now, it's his turn.

Best of luck Brandon and enjoy every minute of it. I know I did.


  1. At the risk of being told to do some push-ups by yourself or your readers (which I won't and will feebly admit that I can't do), football is just a game. I know you (Americans) take football incredibly seriously but it is just a game.

    As a workaholic that walked away from her practice, I wish Brandon good luck. I hope he finds a job that he is passionate about and that he achieves a healthy work and life balance.

  2. Wow... Brandon not coaching?? That sounds weird... Just as weird when that new coach wasn't the old coach back in 2003... Timing is everything and its your time to coach and his time to be a dad... Your girls are so lucky that they can be a part of it!

  3. It's great that you got to jump back into coaching when the time was right. Plus, you can keep a close eye on your girls as they grow up, right? Who dares date the coach's daughter?

  4. Walking away from a job you love, that you find rewarding, has to be difficult.

    However, I do not have as much sympathy for what you're missing as I do envy for what you have now.

  5. I recently came out of work myself to look after my daughter full time. Congratulations on being able to find a good balance between the things you love. Thats the most important thing after all.

  6. I'd rather be remembered for doing something I love that really mattered than anything else.