Why I Do What I Do
“What the heck am I doing here?” I asked myself. It was January 8th, 2010. In Houston that night the temperature dropped to twenty-five degrees with fifteen mile per hour winds that sunk the wind chill into the teens, and I was outside. At night. The weather wasn’t the worst part for me that night. I had layers of clothes on. I was wearing three pairs of socks for my feet, and my head was covered with a thick wool ski cap. I even wore my puffy winter coat known as the “Michelin Man.” Only my face was exposed to the frigid temperatures, which to many people’s delight, made it difficult to speak; nevertheless, the worst part about that night was that I was missing the BCS Title Game featuring the University of Alabama versus the University of Texas. The rest of the state of Texas sat snug in their warm, cozy living rooms in front of their flat screen TV’s, or maybe they congregated in a sports bar about to celebrate the culmination of a great season for the state’s largest and most successful college football team. Not me. I was outside in sub-freezing temperatures about to coach my soccer team at a tournament in Klein.
As each player jogged to midfield when his name was called for the pre-game announcements my mind began to wander. Shivering, I asked myself, “What the heck am I doing here?” The answer came soon after the last player’s name echoed through the stadium. As they jogged toward me on the sideline, a familiar jolt surged through my body, and that’s when I realized what the heck I was doing there: I love my job. I’m no adrenaline junky. I don’t ride roller coasters, and I have no desire to skydive, but that feeling right before kick-off is a thrill that has hooked me. Every game, no matter who the opponent, is winnable before the opening whistle in my mind. The anticipation of the unknown is so much more exhilarating than the expectation of the inevitable. And no matter how much we prepare, each game will have a surprise or two. Sometimes they’re good, and sometimes they put grey hairs on your head, but it doesn’t matter.
Coaching is fun because it’s so unpredictable. I might go a little bit insane if I was forced to stare at a computer monitor for eight hours a day, every day. Coaching also allows me to impact a bunch of great kids in a positive manner and prepare them for their future. Every game and every season will have highs and lows, and so will life. I try and let my players know that you’ll never go undefeated in the game of life, but that doesn’t mean you should give up when times are tough, and dwelling on the negative never gets you anywhere.
Success is about resiliency. Champions rally together to focus on the solution, not the problem. It makes me happy when I see my players talking with each other at half time about second half adjustments. They get it. Let’s work together and make sure we win this game. I’m filled with pride to know that if these guys apply this strategy throughout their life, they’re going to be successful at whatever they do. I don’t think I could get that feeling if I were a salesman and made a big sale. I have plenty of memories of wins and losses, but some of my best memories as a coach are away from the playing field.
The coach’s office can be a wild place where you need your head on a swivel at all times. Coaches love practical jokes, and I’ve seen some great ones like freezing a rookie’s keys in a cup of water or putting shoe polish on the telephone receiver. I’ve even seen one coach put a live snake in a bathroom stall while another coach was “busy” in there. Coaches are a protective bunch, too. When they see one of their brothers hurting or in need of some help, you can trust that they’ll be there to do whatever they can. I don’t know if I could find another job where I would go into work early or stay late just to hang out with my co-workers, and I don’t know if I could find another profession with the same sense of camaraderie. Both of my parents were educators, and they ironically tried to steer me away from teaching and coaching.
I have to admit that sometimes it’s difficult to see friends who left coaching to sell pharmaceuticals or went into private business who can now afford things that are out of reach for me, but I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I could be unhappy with my career so I could drive a nice car. I don’t want to dread waking up in the morning to go to a job that leaves me empty and unfulfilled at the end of the day. I love my job. Besides, what other occupation would give me the opportunity to stand outside in sub-freezing temperatures and miss UT in the national championship game, all the while loving every minute of it!