Riding Out Into the Sunset

9:15 AM, May 11, 2011   |    comments
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It should be quite obvious that I love sports.  Why else would somebody trust me/give me money to blog about it?  Now I could make a very boring, dry, intellectually numbing list of why I love sports, but I'll spare you that until another day.  Today, I aim to make it abundantly clear on what would be the numero uno reason on why I love sports (and why you should care):

It's a 365 day-long movie where no one knows the ending.

Sports have its heroes (Butler University's men's basketball team) and its villains (the Pittsburgh Penguins).  It has its inspiring entrances (the rise of Derrick Rose's Chicago Bulls) and its bitter endings (the last hurrah of the San Diego Chargers). 

We see Wayne leaving his home because of his wife wants a career of her own, Diana getting arrested for DUI after another successful night at work, Michael collapsing into tears because he misses his dad, and Tiger awkwardly addressing the embarrassment of sleeping with women much worse-looking than the one he's married to, and I quote an older-than-time-itself poem, sports reminds us that our heroes are really men and women: fallible and flawed. 

Within the last five months of the academic school year, three coaching legends (and plenty more successful head coaches in their own right) in the Washington-area have resigned or retired leaving their programs that they are synonymous with the area in question. 

Obviously, the most earth-shattering of resignations was DeMatha's head football coach Bill McGregor stepping down after almost 30 years of coaching future NFL All-Pros, winning championships, and outright lighting up the competition. 

Dunbar's Craig Jefferies' has just as gleaming a resume as his DeMatha counterpart.  Jefferies claimed eight DCIAA titles in his tenure and developed a bevy of professional talent. 

And the coaching carousel hasn't stopped yet!  Next one off was two-time Virginia state champion Mark Bendorf leaving both coaching and teaching at Robinson Secondary School. 

While McGregor's future is uncertain on whether he'll be coaching at another school's two-a-day workouts, Jefferies is headed west to coach at the University of New Mexico. For Bendorf, he will be riding off in the sunset after winning an another Concorde district title last season.    

Coaches step down for a myriad of reasons.  Bendorf was quoted as a reason for him stepping down was that he is eligible for retirement with full benefits in Fairfax County.   Another coach who stepped down after a long and successful tenure was Mike O'Hara who resigned from coaching Broad Run's girls basketball after a decade of accolades and championships. 

O'Hara decided to step away from the Lady Spartans to focus more on family and take a less time-consuming position as a boys varsity assistant at Dominion High School.  It also helps with next season as Broad Run will be moved into the Virginia AAA classification, meaning the school's teams will be venturing into Prince William County for away games.   Moving over to Dominion keeps O'Hara local as well as removes him from the sometimes difficult requirements that it takes to be a high school basketball coach.

"There's a list of demands, it's a year-round commitment," said O'Hara.  Since he first took the head job at Broad Run back in 2001 to 2011, O'Hara has noticed how parents of his athletes have become progressively more involved to a point where they've begun to believe they're better talent evaluators than the coaches.

"There's a lot of pressure. They think Johnny or Susie are Division I athletes," said O'Hara. 

Parents, their high schoolers, and sports are a tricky mixture.  You have people like my parents (extremely supportive and just glad I wasn't loitering around at the local Subway sandwich shop after school) and you have some parents that will actually transfer their child from one school to another simply because the offense at the school was run-based and their child was a wide receiver. 

This happened at my high school in San Diego, California and the exact same scenario happened this year at Robinson when the parents of current Penn State-commit Matt Zenellatto transferred their son to rival Lake Braddock to take advantage of Lake Braddock's Division I quarterback and spread offense versus Robinson's ground-based attack.  The transfer worked on both accounts as both wide receivers received the scholarship offers they were aiming for, which were earned based on the skills and merits of the athlete as well as some considerably extraordinary effort from parents.

I can agree with O'Hara in that our society has changed to parents looking outward toward their kids' teachers, coaches, etc. on why their child hasn't met the parents' expectation rather than evaluating themselves. 

Now, I completely understand when it comes to parents and high school sports, parents tend to bite off more what they can chew (my mother still thinks I could have wrestled Division 1 or 2 somewhere).  

Whenever I read the newspaper or watch television about how some of the area coaches just keep winning and winning, it sometimes comes off as these coaches are like their collegiate and professional counterparts whose full-time jobs are to win games. 

But the reality is these coaches mentioned have had to handle their rather enthused parents, coach their teams, work their real 9am-5pm job, and come home to be a husband and/or father.  These coaches are real, human men, just like you and me.  But to manage all of those demands, day in and day out for 10+ years?  That's venturing into bonafide "hero" territory right there. 

We get lost in the movie-like endings in sports such as Penn State's Joe Paterno being carried off the field on the shoulders of the players or the actual sports movie endings such as Gordon Bombay's epic walk out of the arena at the end of "the Mighty Ducks" movies. 

The difference is those movies have the handy montage of shortening all the day-to-day life of a coach in a concise three minutes of running time.

We don't see these characters become one of us again. We don't see when they get home, they're not allowed inside the house until they take the trash to the curb and walk the dog.

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