The problem with this quarantine bullshit is that it’s given me way too much time to reflect on stuff in the past and when I do reflect, its usually about playing football or lifting or today, my high school football coach. And I remember every word, every slight, every compliment that a coach ever gave me. Coaches have a huge influence on their athletes, good or bad. Hell, it was 1982-1984, and it seems like yesterday.
My high school football coach, Coach Voight, was a real prick. In fact, I don’t remember one person on my team who liked the guy. Just a nasty old fat dude who was some kind of athlete like 100 years ago who sat there during gym class or weight training class, sort of watching us, but usually just sitting there, being useless. He'd roll out the ball and tell us to play or he’d give us some fake ass lifting program, but he never lifted a weight in his life.
As a football coach? During games, he would walk out to the numbers and yell, “SAME PLAY” to our quarterback. Brilliant.
To say that I despised the man would be an understatement.
After everyone’s senior football season, he would take all seniors and put them on one side of the weight room, and they weren’t allowed to intermingle with the other players, so they wouldn’t “infect them” with….well, I’m not sure what the seniors could do to the younger guys except lift with them, advise them and push them. But the coach wasn’t into that at all.
So, when he tried to do that to me, I rebelled, and I refused to lift weights at all in his weight room. I would go to my friend’s house after school to train. Mr. Voight got tired of me and he put me out in the hallway. I’d go to class, grab a chair out of the weight room and sit in the hallway. I’d do that every day. I’d be out there in the hallway, and my girlfriend would come visit me, my friends would come visit me. What a joke. Even as a 16-year-old, I knew more about lifting than that bitch.
I think that he gave me a “B” in weight training during that time. I think about this guy every so often and I try to figure this asshole out. Like what was he thinking? Why was he such a prick? What made him tick? Sometimes I think too much. But it infuriates me that this guy had a chance to have such an influence on kids when they needed him the most and he fucking failed. He failed miserably.
Where I grew up in Maryland was a blue collar place with a lot of tough guys who worked their ass off all week and then convened at the Golden Bull Bar or Phil’s Bar and Grill after work to drink Budweiser or National Bohemian and argue about the Baltimore Colt’s or Redskins chances for a good year. I had one little league coach, Coach Miller, Marine badass, perhaps my favorite coach ever, who would line up beer bottles on a table at Phil’s Bar and Grill with one of my future junior college coaches and figure out plays and the defenses to stop them. They loved football. And drinking beer. In my area, football was for real men and baseball and pretty much everything else were titty pulling sports that you played when it wasn’t football season.
I’d drive up with my Dad for little league practice when I was just a kid and the coaches of the team would be leaning against their pick-up trucks, smoking cigarettes and bullshitting.
And the kids were tough. We’d play “maul ball” before practice where whoever has the ball gets slaughtered by everyone until he gives the ball to someone else to get slaughtered.
It was a tough area. Not crime and stuff, there was never that very much at all. It was just tough dudes who took zero shit from anyone.
One of my friends’ uncles played in the early 70’s for Mr. Voight and got in a fight with a local college football player and bit the guys ear off. Folks had a chip on their shoulder, they worked and worked, and no fancy college boy was going to leave a fight without remembering that he had gotten into a real fight.
So, this high school coach couldn’t handle these kids who came from tough backgrounds and their values were different, I guess. But all he had to do to harness these kids was to treat them with respect, understand them , talk to them, relate to them or at least try. You see, he could have been an asshole like he was if the players knew that he cared. He was in a great position to have a huge influence on all of us and he failed , he failed. Chance of a lifetime. And instead of everyone remembering him as a MAN, we all remember him as a nobody. We knew he didn’t give a damn about any of us, I really don’t know what he gave a shit about. And we would have won a state championship every year or come pretty damn close. You wouldn’t believe the athletes that came through this high school. We had huge kids, and nobody was huge back then and we had fast kids and we had kids who would give their left nut to just win some games and be great.
I tell my son all the time when they say that they dislike this coach or that coach that I had some lousy coaches who we just ignored, and we knew they were lousy, and we just played for ourselves. If the coach sucks? Screw him, we will band together and do it in spite of him. See, nobody had any money back then, so there wasn’t all this, “ I don’t like the coach so I’m gonna transfer to this school or that school.” That was unheard of back then. Now it’s just the way it is when it comes to athletics.
We made the best of it. I guess that what pisses me off, still to this day, is how much influence this prick could have had on all these kids. Kids with broken homes, kids with dads who beat the shit out of them, kids with divorced families who were dying for a father figure. Damn, man. Don’t you see those kids with hope in their eyes?
So dammit, if you are a coach, that the players may not look like they are listening, but they are listening, I promise. They want you to be there for them , to understand them, or at least try to understand them.
You don’t want one of your athletes, 37 years later, writing a column about what a prick you were back then.