Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

Coaching - a third part

Keeping it Lively along the Path

As a small business owner my days tend to go on and on.  The weeks can run into each other in an endless stream.  Even if one day is not ever quite like another, well, they pretty much are one like another. 

            I try to help my staff and interns stay alert to nuances and changes.  I try to help them keep looking for things to learn in the midst of repetition.  This requires me to train them a bit more creatively.  In the midst of a long, grey, slow winter, this creativity is also helpful to just keep a positive attitude. 

            In this last of three memories of my father’s role as a coach in my life, I offer a glimpse of what I’m trying to do with those I employ.

 

            My dad was an assistant for my first two football teams.  He never did like coaching football as much as baseball or basketball, but I know he wanted to be a part of it.  The football coaches of our town didn’t turn over very quickly so Dad just tried to be content on the side.

            One Saturday morning Dad did get a chance to run a whole practice with our team, the Falcons, since our coach was out hunting.  Dad called the practice for Joy Park along Silver Lake.  It seemed like a strange choice because we usually just played down at Richardson’s ball field.  The playground has little resemblance to a football field and has barely 10 yards of flat open ground.

            The leaves are turning but few are on the ground.  It is actually a little warm this mid-fall morning.  We gather on the swings and merry-go-round in our pads and uniforms.  We’re having fun trying to do things in these bulky outfits, chasing each other and playing, unaware of what we might actually be learning by this.  Dad just watches and smiles.

            Finally after everyone has arrived we line up near the road for exercises and warm up.  The cars are sparse but we get a laugh out of having people drive by and stare at us.  One carload considers stopping to play at the playground but drives on.

            A quick run to the top of the hill for a drink becomes a workout as well as we take turns pumping the handle on the old water pump.  And then it’s down for some plays.  As we set up on the small open space we begin to pretend that trees and playground equipment are opposing players.  We put nifty moves on them that leave them standing in their tracks.  Joel Martin makes us laugh as he runs into tree after tree trying to knock them down.  Every play we run requires us to make funny little adjustments that make them seem brand new.

            Dad has fun throwing the ball through the tree branches to our receivers who stretch their hands and arms while trying to pick out the ball from the leaves that fall.  Later Dad hangs a tackling dummy from the swing set and pulls on the rope making the dummy bob up and down as we charge and tackle it. 

            I remember this day because it was different.  My dad had transformed a familiar park space into something new.  He had transformed what was usually a drudgery of a Saturday morning football practice into something fun. 

 

            And many years later, when I pulled into Joy Park late in the wee hours of the morning after a 16-hour motorcycle riding mis-adventure just hoping for a place to rest, I would remember fondly a father who could be with me in spirit in the most amazing places.  But that’s another story.