Chop wood, Carry water: Kevin Keeton 4/9

Kevin Keeton

By Kevin Keeton former Belton and Oak Park Head Coach
Posted: April 9, 2017 - 12:05 PM

It seems that I have started and stopped this second column a dozen times. Written it, rewritten it, and thrown it in the trash over and over in my head. Blue Valley Head Coach Eric Driskell’s passing has been difficult and reflection time is slow time it seems.

I do want to say how much I appreciated Pastor Adam Hamilton’s words at the memorial. We’ve all been at funerals where the man or woman was elevated in the eulogy. This certainly wasn’t the case with Eric. It didn’t have to be. Pastor Hamilton also reminded us that healing for the Driskell Family will be a long journey. Please continue to pray for Kari and their girls, the family, and the entire Blue Valley Community.

I have, however, made a few decisions during this time. Namely, that writing this is important. I know I need to do it. And it’s because I truly love the game of high school football. I believe our game is currently the last vestige, the last stronghold, of accountability left for a young man in America – for ALL young men!

High school football is the great leveler left in our society. No matter the what, why, or where of a kid’s background, with a lot of hard work they have a place on their high school football team. Our game must endure.

Likewise, I know now who I’m writing for. I have decided that I’m not writing for parents or players – although they might be addressed at times. I’m not writing for the general fan of the high school game – although you are more than welcome to continue reading.

I’m writing this column for the high school football coach. Varsity, JV, middle school, coordinator, head coach, or the all-important “get back” coach – it doesn’t matter. I’m writing to you and for you. Unfortunately, you may not like what I have to say.

Please let me start by saying that this message is not directly rooted in Eric’s untimely passing. This seed has been planted in me for a long time, and I’ve ignored it for almost as long. We as coaches are getting completely out of whack! There is so much dissonance developing in our profession between what we believe, what we say, and what we really do. You know it, and I know it. I see it on your faces at clinics. I hear it in your voices during conversations. Not all of you – just most.

You see, we preach family, then we miss our kids’ soccer games. We demand physical fitness, then we let ourselves go. We talk about integrity, then we sell our souls to find the next playmaker.

We say that success is the building of quality people, then we honor only those that find success on the scoreboard. We are in a constant chase for 365 days a year. You know exactly what I mean by that. Chasing is chasing. I don’t care if you are chasing the next state championship or a three-win season. Trust me, it’s all the same. (Ask your central nervous system, your cardio vascular system, or your wife and kids for that matter.) It’s all the same.

Additionally, for most of us coaching is a closed loop system. We coach, our closest friends coach, we only socialize with coaches, our families only vacation with other coaches’ families. It’s like the damn mob. Check the contact list right now on your phone. What percent are NOT coaches? Guys – I’m the worst offender.

I don’t know, maybe it’s always been like this. I only know the 18 years that I have coached. But it seems like this disconnect is getting worse. More pressure, more stress, more dissonance. High school athletics certainly are taking a new and different role in the American education system now, and with that comes unintended consequences for coaches and their families.

What’s the answer? Admittedly, I’m still working on it. I know it starts with taking a deep breath and looking in the mirror. It starts with taking care of yourself. It starts with making sure that your own kids know who their dad is.

If you have any answers, please let me know at the next GKCFCA Clinic. I’ll be the loud one in the back with a plate full of food and a full glass.