by Hunter Thompson
Posted Fri Sep 8 2006 10:26:39 PM on DawgRun
I walked through the door this evening absolutely exhausted, completely wore out after a week where my 7th grade football team lost their first game of the season and after I spent Tuesday night at the hospital with a running back with a bruised pancreas. I could barely find the strength to get in to work this morning, and, when I did, I got the news from my assistant coach that two of our best linemen were going to be lost for the season because of grades and discipline issues. Of greatest concern was the fact that we’d lost two more men, which put us at 20 players for our team and we wouldn’t be able to scrimmage each other for a Friday practice. We needed two more people to put up on the line, just so we could help our O-line adjust to shifts and stunts to help improve our dwindlingly talentedfront five for our next game. My only solution: we (my 36 year old assistant and me, an out of shape 32) would have to suit up and play line for our practice.
“God, we can’t do that,” my assistant objected, obviously concerned about keeping his job. “We’d get fired if they found out we were playing with the kids like that.”
“We’ve got no other options, coach,” I replied. “It’s either that or we cancel practice again, and go into next week’s game without adequate practice, while all of our opponents do nothing but improve each week”.
Reluctantly, and after the blessing of our Athletic Director, my assistant agreed. We got down to the equipment room and found a helmet that somewhat fit and some pads that worked alright, if you don’t mind squeezing your head through a mouse hole. In the large-sized youth equipment, we looked like two giants that had just experienced a sudden and violent five foot growth spurt. We looked somewhat menacing, somewhat intimidating.
We looked absolutely ridiculous.
Neither one of us were overly excited to run practice this way, but we desperately needed this practice and we couldn’t have another week of half-squad practices that only ran plays to the right and the left with no thought or idea as to where the run was going. We decided to keep our practice idea to ourselves, not only to keep the kids quiet while in class, but to keep our Principal unaware of our hands-on technique, as well. (We told her later, and,surprisingly enough, she thought it was a great idea).
When we finally made our way up to the hill tha afternoon, our 7th grade squad had already worked their way through half of their warm-ups. As we came over the top of the hill, our defensive captain noticed the pads and helmets in our hands.
“Coach, are you playing today?” I could tell he was obviously amused, and the thoughts of finally getting a lick on the old ball coach after those end-of-practice suicides and gassers would be way too sweet for our middle linebacker who we nicknamed “Mr. Pain”.