Logically, our high school football season would end either when we lost our playoff game or we failed to make the playoffs. Makes sense, right?
Game over, mope around a couple of days, check in equipment, and say those awful goodbyes to senior young men who will never play organized football again. Over. Done with. Gone.
But that’s never the way it happened. Never.
Sure, we’d do all the stuff listed above. Plus, we’d have the requisite end-of-the-season banquet where I’d have to fake-smile my way through the whole ordeal because all I could think about were my failures as a coach that season (Although the player-produced highlight videos were always cool, no matter how few highlights we may have actually produced on the field that year.).
Even then, the season was never really over for me until the last game, the 4A state championship, was played. Somebody in 4A was still playing AND it wasn’t me. That was tough to let go. People still playing when I was not ready to be done.
Until the point of the finality of nobody else playing, I was mired in the reality of our failure. I slept poorly, I worked poorly, and if you take a vote, I was probably a pretty crappy person to be around. The majority of my waking thoughts dwelt on what we did wrong and what we needed to do to get better.
Once the state title was safely in the books, I relaxed. I started to think optimistically about next year. I started to prepare winter, spring, and summer weight workouts with a hopeful smile on my face.
Did I say I relaxed? Well, apparently, when I relaxed at the end of the season, so did my immune system. About every year, come late November, I would get a God-awful, upper respiratory infection which made my life miserable right up to Christmas. I spent a month every postseason hacking and coughing my way through life. So much for optimism?
Coaching is a weird thing. It gets in your head and worms its way into the marrow of your bones. There are bad things I really don’t miss in the least of which I could rant for hours upon. But the good things and great memories far outweighed the bad and I miss those things dearly. These good things are the things which keep people coaching sports year after year.
Not money, not glory, not the fancy headsets, but the pure joy of competing and coaching young people.
But…as the great Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Putting football things on the shelf.
The pain of letting a season go. The pain of telling those seniors goodbye.
The bumps from slipping back into a normal family life.
Is everyone finally done playing?
Game over. Back to life.
Over. Done with. Gone.