In one week, student athletes from across the country will be putting pen to paper during the fall sports’ season’s National Signing Day.
While it is also open to athletes from other sports to sign, the football players are the main event. College football fans from all over the country, or at the least SEC country, stand by as an 18-year-old reaches for a hat, reveals a tattoo or pulls out a bulldog puppy.
But that’s next week. This week is all about the chaos for those highly recruited athletes, not yet signed or the teenaged high school students trying to decide a major pathway for their lives.
For high school athletes, now is the time to wonder if a local school is better than traveling for a partial scholarship, to decide if educational or athletic opportunities are better, which coach is more appealing, are the grades good enough, and for a very small percentage, which program could lead to a possible NFL career.
For college coaches, now is the time to make a push for your top selection, decide who will get the key visits and how much of a scholarship you can commit.
For high school coaches, you have to make sure test scores are in order, field inquiring phone calls, hope all the DVDs are sent or the video files are uploaded and most of all, put your salesman’s hat on.
The last thing mentioned on the to-do list is something I have never really thought about before, yet another task for a high school coach.
Of course the in-game and in-practice duties of a coach are well known — get the team ready, manage the game, call the right timeouts, play the right kids and so on. Even the pre-game duties, of making sure the field/gym is in order, watching film, contacting opposing coaches and watching more film are common coaching duties.
There is even familiarity with the coaches trying to keep their players in lines as far as grades and serving as a mentor, and sometimes male role model.
I’m sure there is much more, but the list is long enough so that it’s easy for some things to slip out of the net of comprehension. But around recruiting time, which is most all of the year for most sports, coaches have even more.
For the coaches who put players first, and believe it or not there are some, and I’m not saying any in Newton or Rockdale counties, but there are some (possibly some who I had in high school) who do not, it is about continuing their education. And that is enough to be another job unto itself.
Aside from all the academic requirements, which unless you’re a prodigy and already thinking pro agent, are even more important than all the athletic tasks required to get noticed.
Coaches are updating stats, keeping videos updated online, keeping up with scouting services, making sure Facebook and Twitter and any other new social media aren’t showing recruiters things they shouldn’t see, keeping families in the loop of progress and news, maintaining coaching networks and — just in general — saying how terrific the particular student athlete is.
I was close enough to witness that first hand at a recent basketball game, where a college was scouting the action and stopped by to say hello to the coach in the post-game.
That’s where it turned into a proud parent-like figure bragging on his youngster.
All the frustrations of games and practices disappear and it’s ‘how hard he works,’ ‘how unselfish he is’ that ‘how much he means to the team,’ this and ‘how great he will be’ that.
Now none of it seems like outright lying but it is an effort to sell the players’ attributes and talents.
Just another duty of coaches who are judged from their on-the field actions, and not the dozens of other tasks they perform — oh and they’re full-time teachers.