Put Me In Coach- Football

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Put Me In Coach- Football

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Two inactive students take Hickman football by storm.

Celena Schmolzi / Reporter

At Hickman, football often goes unappreciated. It’s easy to look at a team’s record and surmise that they don’t work hard or aren’t good. As someone who doesn’t play a sport, I often played into this assumption, not having any idea just how much work goes behind a sport. After the first big win of the year against Pattonville, the school population adored the football team. I was shocked at just how easily the perception of our team could change and decided it was time to put this uncertainty to rest by “joining” the team for one practice and seeing what really goes into what happens on the field every Friday night. I went into this practice uncharacteristically optimistic. Usually, I would be scared out of my wits about embarrassing myself with the grueling exercise. The last sport I played was 7th-grade track and I faked a sprained ankle within the first 3 weeks so I wouldn’t have to run anymore. Needless to say, I am not an athletic person. Most of my friends and family were shocked when they heard what I’d decided to do; I was shocked. I knew very little about football initially. I had a slight grasp on the positions and point system, which I strengthened with some slightly condescending tutoring sessions with a few of my friends. I knew football practices were 3 hours and that there were two girls on the team last year, none this year. There are 103 players and 13 coaches.

 

My partner Reyna Houston, senior, and I left our fourth block early to get our gear and head down to the locker room. The practice began with a thirty-minute meeting… in the men’s locker room. Reyna and I sat on the stairs for its duration, waiting. Unbeknownst to us, there is an exterior door in the men’s locker room, and the boys had already gone out to the field and were halfway done with warmups when we arrived. We met Caleb, Coach Smith’s eight-year-old son. He offered to take pictures for us so we could warm up with the team. As we walked onto the field, he called out: “Don’t embarrass yourselves!”

 

We got in line with some of the boys and did lunges and knee-hugs across the grass field, feeling good about ourselves. The team got in two parallel lines facing one another to stretch, and the two of us mirrored their actions. I was surprised at my flexibility. I felt proud that I was reaching farther than many of the boys on the team.

 

After a brief water break, the boys split into four groups based on their position. First, we joined some boys practicing passes. Our ball spent more time plummeting to the ground than spiraling, but the other players hardly seemed to care. I noticed whenever one person in a pairing made a mistake, they apologized to the other person and promised to do better. It occurred to me how much one person’s actions affect the rest of the team, and how much responsibility is on each player. 

 

With three-hour practices every day, football becomes a huge part of these lives. Despite the daily struggle and grueling work, these boys chose to stay with it, even though they may not always receive the glory of winning or even playing each weekend. The best part of football to Jevean Brown, a senior quarterback and safety, is the culture. 

 

“We knew we’re the only Kewps in the county… we’re one of one so… we take pride in that.” 

 

“For me, the best part is honestly just hitting people. I love hitting people,” said Trey Kiesling, a senior linebacker. “And also being around my friends and just making plays together with my teammates is awesome… Here at Hickman, we’re all a team. You know, if I mess up, they’re always there to pick me back up.” 

 

Second, we joined a group of linebackers tackling dummies. After watching, we tried our hand at it. “The force is strong with this one!” Reyna succeeded in moving the dummy on her third try. It was my turn, and I rushed into the dummy, only to effectively bounce off. It had tackled me more than I, it. 

 

Then, we visited the D-line. These boys were working through plays and practicing them again and again until the coaches were satisfied. As Coach Seymour explained the “bucket step,” I began to realize just how technical football really is. Each step and play has a different name and when sitting in the stands, I had never thought about how complicated this game really is. Each player must be in sync at all times with their teammates.

 

The coordination astounded me; it was clear the boys had put hours of work into even one simple play. “I feel like the stands gotta know that it’s a grind every day and it’s like, I know we haven’t had the best record as a program but you just gotta know that we’re working hard every day and no matter the loss, we’re still giving one hundred percent,” Kiesling said. 

 

Next, we went back to the linebackers. As they would rush within the confines of the ladder, his teammates would try to knock the ball out of his hand. We joined in on the fun, punching and slapping at the ball. As my hands made contact, it felt as though I was touching an eel. The players were slick with sweat. 

 

Lastly, it was time for conditioning. We ran the width of the field twice, then halfway twice, then a quick succession of 10-foot sprints. It felt as though my legs were melting into the ground and my feet had turned to lead bricks. I’d heard the trope of lungs screaming for oxygen many times, but it had never seemed real to me until then. It felt as though there was a great weight on my chest, one that wouldn’t let me get enough air. Just as I started to get worried I’d faint, Coach Alvis blew his whistle and we came in for a huddle. He spoke for a minute before the huddle dispersed with a booming cry of “Kewps!”

 

Football is much more than it seems from the outside. The team works for hours each day and repeats drills over and over to the point of perfection. Many of the players and coaches spoke about how much they wish the people watching in the stands understood how hard they work, even if they’re having a poor season. 

 

“[I wish people knew about] all the hard work we put in,”  said Brown. “Just… what we do and how we’re a brotherhood… Besides the [players and coaches], it’s like nobody for real thinks we’re going to be anything special until we go out and show them.”