For fans, the football pre-season can’t come soon enough as it signals a clean slate with endless possibilities. In our home, however, it arrives to a plethora of emotions. When I was newly married and for the first time in my life living far from all my friends and family, being married to a coach meant dinners alone, feeling lonely and well, plain ole’ depressed. Once our kids arrived I was crippled with fear and an overwhelming sense of “How in the world am I going to cope alone?” As the kids got a bit older and missed their daddy something awful, that’s when I packed them up in our Jeep and took “our show” on the road for a much-needed distraction.
That said, I’m proud to report our family has survived over 25 pre-seasons in college and in the NFL. I like to believe we’ve mastered the art of making the very most of our uninterrupted family time. Since a coach has very little vacation time, we traditionally opt to leave our town for summer vacation. The rest of our summer is spent visiting family, cooking meals together and accomplishing, okay maybe just starting, a few projects around our house. When “our coach” begins saying, “You guys know this is my last week at home, right?” “Tonight is our last dinner together.” “I just played my last round of golf until next year.” “I’ll be right back, I’m going to get the car washed one last time.” That’s when we know it’s THE COUNTDOWN, which sometimes feels more like a rocket launch—football is fast approaching. But when his briefcase is ceremoniously placed on the kitchen island, we know it’s for real. Now, instead of each of us falling to bits, we embrace our own sort of pre-season.
My pre-season consists of making certain our lives and those who visit us during the football season run most efficiently. First I must compare each family members’ commitments to our football schedule and then add in those who plan to visit us. Once all the intricacies have been looked at and evaluated, they are “sharpied” onto our family wall calendar. Next up, I make certain our home is in its best shape to handle the rigors of the grueling season ahead. That means tidied, cleaned and organized. I, of course, also set aside time to tweak my own “playbook.” Meals which only mustered a few yards are eliminated and replaced with recipes, if executed properly, that will hopefully get me at least a first down! Each game I must also determine whether to implement man v. zone coverage. If you have ever been responsible for getting others to and from a football game, you understand how challenging and serious this selection is. These days with our children living their own adult lives, often times I must opt for zone coverage, a technique whereby I cover the movements and whereabouts of all our guests at one time. But if any of our children are in attendance, then it’s man-on-man; each of us responsible for only one guest.
Last week someone in the neighborhood asked me how my husband was and how he felt pre-season was going. “Good,” I replied. “I know he loves being back with his guys. Basically they study the playbook in their meetings and then practice what they’ve learned on the field. You know, practice until they get it right.” That’s when it hit me—that’s exactly what I do. I was quickly reminded of a scrimmage a few weeks ago. I couldn’t find my “stadium approved bag," so my pockets were bulging with sharpies, lip gloss, car keys and a credit card. I had forgotten cash, sunscreen and aspirin! In other words, had those sports reporters been watching my pre-season performance they’d have most certainly been calling for my head.
So you see, it seems everyone can benefit from pre-season practices to get things right. The opportunity to correct mistakes. Time for practice and mastering your skill to make things perfect. A chance for something that was once uncertain and uncomfortable to become a part of who you are.
Moral: “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” Bear Bryant, legendary football coach at the University of Alabama
with football love,
A little thing I wish to all my football friends near and far: May your families visit often. May new friends fill the immense void of those left behind. May positive fans silence the negative ones. And may your season be filled with more wins than losses.