Monday, May 06, 2013

Coaching: Old School

I told a story here quite a while back about a night when we played Pocola, Oklahoma in football and I made an accidental interception that made a big difference in the game. Another year when we played Pocola it didn’t work out so well. We played them on their field in the cold mud and they beat us soundly. It was almost a two hour ride home in the bus, a long, quiet ride home. Coach sat in the front and never said a word. No one else said much either. We were all pretty miserable.

Charleston didn’t have a big sports budget. The cheerleaders and managers rode on the same bus with us. It was close to midnight when we pulled into the parking lot at the school. Coach stood up and opened the bus door.

“Anyone who isn’t a player can get off,” he said quietly. That wasn’t a good sign.

After the cheerleaders and managers disappeared into the gym building, Coach closed the bus door and looked around at us. Coach was a big man, well over six feet. He seemed larger in the shadowy light, and he seemed awfully close to where I was sitting. For the first time that night I wished I hadn’t ended up in an aisle seat.

Coach studied us for a moment. His fists clenched suddenly. I’d never seen him look so angry.

“If that had been a pile of shit out there,” he shouted, “you would have drowned in it. With your mouths open!”

He stalked down the aisle, then back up it. We all leaned away from him. He shouted and raved some more. I only remember those first words, however. They are engraved on my memory.

It seemed to go on forever; I doubt it lasted longer than five minutes. Then Coach opened the door again and told everyone to get off but the seniors. I wasn’t a senior and was very glad of that fact at the moment.  To this day I don’t know what he said to the seniors. No one ever talked about it. I didn’t even ask.

The next day we ran wind sprints until the first person vomited. Then we crabbed up and down the field. Crabbing consisted of getting down onto your hands and feet and going back and forth down the field as fast as you can. I had blisters the size of quarters the next day. I remember poking them with a needle to let the water out. I remember the dead flap of skin peeling away over time to reveal the nice pink new flesh underneath.

Someone told his parents about what Coach said on the bus that night. It wasn’t me. He got into a bit of trouble for a while, although I never knew the inside story on that. I didn’t even get mad at Coach. I was more angry at some of my team mates. There were those who didn’t give a crap whether we won or lost.

I’d like to say the team rallied after what we went through. We didn’t. We lost the next week too. Coach never said a word to us about it.


Ty said...

Running until you puke ... oh, I remember those days. I was fortunate enough to never fall victim, but plenty of guys around me did.

Growing up in Kentucky in the early 80s, a lot of guys chewed tobacco or dipped snuff. The coaches never told anyone not to do it on the field (though it was allowed back then, probably not now), and they never had to. The guys who took to the practice field with a chaw in their jaw or a pinch between cheek and gum were always the first to puke, especially during early fall days when it was still hot. Nobody had to be told a second time.

A few guys did try to act tough and put in a chew during a scrimmage or an actual game, but that lasted about as long as the first hit. Being a right defensive tackle, I know I caused more than a few guys to send their tobacco flying, or worse, to swallow their own chew.

the walking man said...

Now there is another good reason at this late age I am glad I never played sports. I never would have run until I threw up--cause I never ran back then and never could stand the idea of someone who was a history teacher during the day acting all nice and friendly being such a prick after school.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ty, chewing was just beginning to become cool when I was in High School. We didn't have much problem with it on the team. I always thought it was pretty disgusting and never did it more than a couple of times. It wasn't until years later I began to see the guys with a round hole in the back pocket of their jeans from carrying their Skoal can.

Mark, our coach was the civics teacher but he was really a coach who also did some teaching. He had played college ball.

Cloudia said...

True life - true power. Much preferable to strictly fictional 'story structure'


laughingwolf said...

'road the same bus'??? ;)

other than that, good tale :)

Oscar Case said...

My high school coach back in the 40's played for the Rams and he would come to school Monday mornings with bruises on his face and sometimes cuts. He was not a forceful coach like yours and we lost most of our games.

Golden Eagle said...

That sounds like a bit of a miserable experience for everyone involved.

BernardL said...

It's a good thing the cheerleaders rode on the same bus. You may have had a two hour rant as entertainment on the way home. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, memories have power for sure.

Laughingwolf, egads. Guess I better fix that.

Oscar, we broke about even most years.

Golden Eagle, not pleasant in the having but interesting in the remembering.

Riot Kitty said...

Yuck. Glad I never had a coach like that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Riot Kitty, I'm not sure they make 'em like that anymore.

Travis Cody said...

I was on the receiving end of a blistering speech a few times.

The best lesson I ever had from one was when I played like a mad man the week after hearing one. My coach pulled me aside after the game and I thought he was going to tell me nice game. Nope.

With a straight face he wondered how come I needed to have my a$$ chewed to play that well. Why didn't I just play that well all the time.

Lesson - play hard and play as well as you can every time. It's more fun anyway to know you've done the best you can.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This sort of personality seems to haunt coaching from littile league on up through every sport. I think he should have been fired.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Good story, Charles. We learn as much from our coaches as we do from our teachers. My image of a typical American coach is the one I see jumping and screaming in the movies. Are they really like that?

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody, it is a good question, and one to keep in mind for what we do today. I'm gonna use it on myself about writing.

Patti, I find in general that women are more upset over this kind of thing than men are. I wasn't even really mad at him, although there were some calling for his firing. There was an assistant coach now, who was a true sadist, I thought.

Prashant, my experience is that they like to yell. Some are definitely more excitable than others, though.