I loved almost every minute of my time in sports
You should be near the Northwest Missouri State University athletic department right now. I get a head start on most fall sports fans. Football, soccer and volleyball are all beginning their second week of practice. Golf may be at it, too, but I stay as far away from golf courses as possible. It may be hot outside, but fall sports have arrived at Northwest.
I love this time of year. The phrase, “It feels like football weather,” is uttered every time the temperature dips below 65 degrees. “The smell of the grass,” is exclusive to soccer. The only smell from football is the turf roasting in the sun.
Is there any game day atmosphere better than before a home football game at Northwest? It’s different from other sports. There are only five or six home games a year. You have to make the most of it. I can imagine smelling the sausages on the grill as I walk through the parking lot on game day. I have to imagine the smell since I can’t smell a thing.
Sports have been my life for 36 years and as a player before that. I loved ALMOST every minute of that time. The one experience I could forever live without is two per day football practice.
Don’t feel too bad for the Northwest football players. The NCAA has restricted coaches so much, there will only be four days of two practices per day.
Volleyball has a lot of two per day practices, but they take place in 72 degree temps with no wind. I should have sympathy for soccer. Despite the fact that Coach Tracy Hoza has her players enduring tough outdoor practices and she has expectations high for her team, I have a hard time understanding a sport where a forward doesn’t play around the basket.
Here’s what made me hate two per day practices, both as a player and a coach. You have to understand I was never a good football player. Heck, I wasn’t even average. Yet, I was up doing leg lifts in the wet grass at 6 a.m. for the first two or three weeks of practice. One time, I was doing those leg lifts, staring at the sky, when I thought I had made first contact with alien beings. It turned out to be a wayward weather balloon and I was chewed out for losing focus.
By 9 a.m., we were through with the first practice. You would think we would lay around, waiting for the afternoon practice. Unfortunately, the hay fields hadn’t stop growing and the farmers needed our help bailing hay. By 3 p.m., we were home for a quick shower and off for the 4 p.m. practice, usually in 90 to 100 degree temperatures.
The worst part was in the late 1960’s when I played, they had some funny ideas about what was good for the players. If we swallowed water, we would get cramps, or so the coaches told us. They even posted an assistant coach by the water fountain to make sure we only washed our mouth out and didn’t swallow the water. Funny how water has never given me cramps.
The worst thing about being a below average high school player was “hamburger drills.” Everybody wanted the skinny kid to run over in a tackling drill called “hamburger.” I truly was ground up meat. I truly hated two per day practices as a player.
As a coach, it was only marginally better. I had now improved to probably an average football coach from being a below average player. My boss was as nuts as my high school coach. The only difference is we could let the players drink the water.
Two and a half hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the evening. The most important thing I did was supervise “monkey rolls.” That’s where three players jump over each other and roll like human juggling pins.
After that, I pretty much was in charge of blocking dummies. That meant I had to find players who looked like carbon copies of myself in high school to hold the dummies. The players who hit the dummies the most reminded me of the bruisers who abused me in hamburger drills.
One head coach had the bright idea to hold one practice per day, but made it lasted for five hours. I was bored to tears after monkey rolls. The last 4 hours and 45 minutes I spent with the dummies was true torture. I became very close to these poor, abused pieces of equipment.
I love sports. They have been my life. My mom gave me the talk about what I would do the rest of my life. When I responded sports, I thought she would get a hernia laughing. I fooled her and have loved ALMOST every minute of the last 36 years. Now you know why.