Terrance Banks’ quote about him coaches being like ministers has stuck with me all week.
If you read my feature story last week about former Newton running back Nuru Tinch’s high school graduation triumph despite overwhelming odds, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take about five minutes to do so, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Banks, Newton’s head football coach, entering into his sixth year, gave that quote while describing how much his job as the steward of Newton Rams football is much more than Xs and Os and beating Grayson.
Maybe sometimes he wishes it weren’t so. But his comment was one of the inspirations that led me to ask a particular question of all three Newton County Schools football coaches during the Kiwanis Club’s annual football preview gathering..
I asked the coaches what do they wish more people understood about their jobs?
During the hour long session where the coaches spoke with me conversationally about everything from their toughest region games to their respective quarterback situations, it was this question that I felt most compelled to ask.
Why? Because although I have a job to cover theirs and their team’s movements on a football field, I also feel a desire to help humanize these men, and other men and women like them, as much as possible.
Call it the emotional residue from spending 12 years as a full time pastor that causes me to see people beyond the expectations — sometimes unrealistic — heaped upon them. Or perhaps it comes from me watching my wife navigate through the dictates of being a high school head coach…and teacher…and mother…and wife.
But sometimes we (myself included) get so caught up in the public platform and profile of people like coaches, star athletes, politicians and even religious figures that we forget they’re not sponges designed to soak up all our expectations of them and then squeeze them out on demand.
For me, that was the best part about Thursday’s Kiwanis program — allowing the coaches that our community roots for while sometimes simultaneously questioning to give us a reminder that they are just as human as the rest of us.
Perhaps Alcovy coach Chris Edgar actually summarized his response best by the little quip he made upon starting his answer to that question.
“Wow,” Edgar said. “Can I have my wife answer this question?”
Both he and Banks talked about how little their wives and children see them during a football season, and how immense the sacrifice of time is, and how strong their spouses and families are in support of them.
Banks talks about how he’s at the school during the football season from about 6 a.m. until approximately 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, not counting Friday night games, or Sundays when he’s locked in the film evaluation process from early afternoon until late that night.
He shared how he’s virtually always on the clock, providing an anecdote about a time when he was ready to turn off his phone in the evening to enjoy some downtime, only to be met by a parent’s urgent concern which showed up on his screen before he could find the off switch.
Troy Hoff, Eastside’s head coach going into his third season, expressed how such sacrifices have kind of become old hat to him. Hoff said his college coaching background prepared him for much of that, but he offered up a couple of additional points that he wished more people understood.
“Number one, I wish people realized that it’s a team game,” Hoff said. “We celebrate the individual, but at the end of the day it is about the team. It always has been and it always will be. I always say it’s not about the coaches. This thing will be still going on whether I’m here or not.”
The next point he raised may strike some as coach speak, but seeing first hand the “extra” involved, I can personally say I know it isn’t.
“The second thing that I think is that fans, which comes from the word ‘fanatic’ miss — and this comes from all levels — is that it’s bigger than wins and losses,” Hoff said. “There’s a big picture with what we’re trying to do with the game. We can all talk about how there are many kids, and my coaching staff across the board, wouldn’t be where we all today without football.”
Sure, none of this is probably new to anyone reading this, but it definitely bears repeating, especially now as we approach the eve of high school football season.
So when we root, or even criticize, let’s do so, keeping a gentle reminder tucked into the back of our minds that what we celebrate and critique on Friday nights is just a very small piece of the puzzle.
Gabriel Stovall is the sports editor of The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @GabrielStovall1.