Friday, September 15, 2006

COACH

It really goes without saying that Monte loves football. It started back when he was 5 and he realized the bond it created with his dad--at times it was the only bond. He studied it, memorized stats and fell in love with the Miami Dolphins and then later the Florida Gators. But it's more than just facts and plays swirling around in his head, he is passionate about the game, whoever is playing. Too bad he never played it. Instead he played soccer. So when the time came for McDaniel to be eligible to play, there was no question, she was going to play.

He started last fall as the assistant coach filling in when the head coach was traveling for work. This year he decided to sign up as the head coach. As the father of 2 girls, Soccer Sundays is as close as Monte is going to get to Football Friday nights. But he'll take it--it's not without its highlights.

Last night, Monte had the first practice. The team is divided into two: 1st graders on one team and 2nd graders on another. He arrived extremely early to be ready with team information packets and I came later with snack sign-up sheets and Ellie. I noticed as I passed around the clipboard and introduced myself that there was an older gentleman dressed in athletic gear that people were referring to as "Coach". Keep in mind that everyone was also calling Monte "Coach Hartranft". I thought to myself, "How sweet, a grandfather is going to coach the 1st grade team".

As Monte gathered the girls for a warm-up of jumping jacks and a run around the field, he pulled me aside and told me he was nervous. "Really?" I asked. "Why?" After all, he had helped coach before. "That's John Cooper over there." John Cooper…?John Cooper…Oh, JOHN COOPER! The former OSU college football coach John Cooper. He was there watching his 1st grade granddaughter practice.

He discreetly pointed out the prominent spectator to his assistant coach who replied, "So? He doesn't know soccer." It put Monte at ease and the practice proceeded with the normalness that is young girl soccer. Lots of giggles, ballet plies, unrelated questions and more giggles.

Practice concluded with John Cooper telling Monte, "See you next week!" Whoa, he's coming back?

I know it has always tugged at Monte's heart to drive by pee-wee football practice in the fall in a station wagon full of pink princess purses and ruffle dresses. But John Cooper was at HIS girl's soccer practice! Monte came home and called up his buddies, including my dad. Too bad his father has passed away and they couldn't bond again as always through football. As I said before, being a soccer coach isn't without its highlights.

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