Early in our marriage, I accompanied my husband to a Glazier clinic in Chicago. It was my first football clinic, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We arrived in the hotel parking lot, grabbed our bags, and headed in.
The sight that met me inside those doors was one I will never forget—and one I have not stopped loving since.
There they were, a sea of men.
Old and young, many with excellent beards, all of them wearing football apparel. They milled about carrying bags, checking in, and saying, “Hey Coach!” “Hi Coach!” And,“Hey Coacher, long time no see. How’d the season go?”
As I looked around, my heart swelled. These were my people.
Even though I didn’t know them, I knew I loved all of them. It felt like the way a sister loves a brother, or a mother loves her son, because that’s exactly what it was. A room full of brothers. A room full of sons.
A room full of kindred spirits who were gathered together because they were doing the same work we were, all over the country.
As I reflect on that moment, and the many clinics we’ve been to since then, I wanted to highlight a few of these coaches and why I love them. So here’s to you, the coaches I’ve loved before.
The Young Coach
You, precious 22 or 23-year-old, I see you. I see you looking around at all these men, wondering what your coaching career might look like. I see you attend the sessions with your heroes. I see the stars in your eyes and the insecurity in your youth. We love you so much.
We may even especially love you in your singleness because some coach’s family somewhere gets to take care of you for a bit through dinners, holidays, or a Sunday afternoon watching ball until your own wife comes along. We love you, young coach.
The Old Coach
You, ol’ ball coach, I almost can’t see you for the tears in my eyes. I see you standing there, slightly hunched, slower than the men on your staff. Your voice is gruff from years of coaching, and you aren’t trying so hard to fit in anymore.
You’ve learned what’s important and you’re cool with going to bed early while the young guys stay up shooting the breeze. You have literally impacted the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of young men, and somehow survived the many minefields of the career. We love you, old coach.
The Assistant Coach
You, right-hand man, are more valuable than you know. You may want the big job some day, or you may be content with your role as it is. Regardless, you provide a foundation for your head coach that he can never fully thank you for. The hours of film, the days in the off-season, the boys you love with everything you’ve got even though your name is never the one on the interview. Dependable. Steady. Always ready. You are the man. We love you assistant coach.
The Head Coach
You, a leader in the school. You, a figurehead in the community. I see you, and so does everybody else. You take the praise, but you also take the bullets. When the team does well, you praise the boys and the men on your staff. When the team does poorly, you say you need to do better. You spin more plates in the air than you can count and you need a secretary, although you can’t afford one. You sometimes miss the days when you could just coach and love kids, but you know that your leadership is exponentially impacting all involved. We love you head coach.
The Line Coach
You, giant mountain, mushy-hearted man, I see you. Your group of boys love you so very much. You take boys who don’t think they can move, or don’t think they can play, or don’t think they’re big enough, or think they’re too big, and you make a role for them.
You teach them about sacrifice, about not needing the accolades, and about how pancakes (literal and statistical) can feed the soul. You are tough and jolly all rolled into one and we couldn’t do this without you. You fill the room and our hearts. We love you, line coach.
The Skills Coach
You, wiry whippersnapper, I see you. You seem to have the ability to jump into a drill, take on scout QB, or dial down the diva-ness as needed if your players get too much praise.
Your job is a tough one, teaching young men how to live in the spotlight without needing it. Your successes are on the highlight reel and your failures on your opponent's. The moments that come from your teaching is the stuff of legend, long after they hang up their helmets. But, the impact you make in their lives is greater. We love you, skills coach.
The Atypical Coach
You, art teacher. You, theater guy. You, smaller or soft-spoken, I see you. Your atypical addition to the staff creates space. Space for the kid who loves the game but doesn’t think he fits in. Space for the coach who didn’t know how much he could appreciate another kind of friend. Space for the administration to think differently about all the kinds of people who can impact their students. Thank you for serving in a way that surprises people, because that blesses people. We love you, atypical coach.
You, my person, my soul mate, my heart out on that field, I love you. You fit somewhere on the list above, but you fit most perfectly in my life.
This calling of yours is a wild one. It is nothing I knew I wanted and something I’ve come to love. It is not easy, but it is worth it. And you, you are always worth it.
I’d choose you every single time. I love you, my coach.
To all the coaches I’ve loved before…