Faith and family led to my decision to step away as head football coach of the Sevastopol Pioneers this past month. I made this decision to allow me to devote more time to my family, my faith, and to pursue other opportunities in my life.
I am blessed to be the husband to a devoted wife and a father to our 6-year-old daughter. Although it was initially a challenging decision, soon after it was made I had little reservation. I am thankful to have recognized the importance of family time earlier in my life as opposed to looking back years from now with regrets of lost time. It was a difficult decision, but the right one.
On game day, given a 25-second play clock to review the previous play, account for the down-and-distance, substitute in the correct personnel, analyze the defense, and make a play call to give us the best chance at success, was something I thoroughly enjoyed. Although the decision-making had to be quick, I was able to see the results of that decision rather quickly, usually within six seconds. Whether it be a touchdown, turnover, long gain, or loss of yardage; over the course of the game I had more than 50 opportunities to make those decisions. If I called a play that did not result in success, I had the ability to call a different play and try again.
As a husband and father, I am not afforded that same luxury. If I do not give my very best where it matters most, I may not always have the chance to try again. The years go by, moments are lost, and opportunities are missed.
It has been said in several ways. English poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s well-known expression, “Time and tide wait for no man” or Benjamin Franklin’s “Lost time is never found again” help to put time in perspective. Time is valuable and we must use it wisely.
Ultimately, I had to evaluate where my time was spent. As any head coach will tell you, the “Xs and Os” are only a small fraction of the duties. I am sure I could have afforded to put in less time, but that was just not how I coached. If my name was on it, I wanted it to be something respectable.
So I had to ask myself: do I continue to pursue my interests and ask my loved ones to make the sacrifices or do I put aside some of my aspirations for now and cherish the moments that are temporary?
The results of my decision to step away from coaching may not be as instantly apparent as a play call, however, in 15 years when my daughter has grown and was raised with an active father in her life, the impact will be life changing for the both of us.
Since I was a toddler, I have been passionate about football. As a player, through junior high and high school, I never missed a practice or a game. I watched the Packers every Sunday and studied film whenever I had the chance. I had a football in my hands more times than not. I wanted to be around it whenever possible.
After high school, I knew my passion for the game was still burning. I signed with a semi-pro team, the Green Bay Gladiators, to play quarterback for the next five seasons. I then transitioned into an assistant coaching role for several years at Sevastopol before taking over as head coach of the Pioneers.
Over the course of the next three seasons, I was fortunate enough to serve in that position as I worked to rebuild the program. As a young team with low numbers, we finished our first season with a 2-7 record. The following year, we went on a successful run and won four of our final five games to finish the season at 4-5. Last year, we carried the momentum from the previous season and finished with a 7-2 regular season record and berth to the WIAA Jamboree.
I knew we were certainly headed in the right direction. Dating back to the midway point of the 2014 season, we won 11 of our last 14 regular season games. I still felt that some of our best years were still ahead of us. I knew the program had turned the corner and was right where I wanted it to be.
However, despite the success we were having on the field, I could not help but think about the moments at home that I was missing. Accomplishments and success are great, but there is a cost.
From the beginning, I had a vision for the program and through those three seasons, I was able to see it through. I worked to build and promote a program that conveyed discipline, unity and professionalism. My goal was not simply to win, but to instill important values into our student athletes and to serve as a positive role model for them. Most importantly, I wanted those who decided to play football to be safe.
I recognized the dangers of football and the increased awareness of concussions and CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy]. Through fundraising, grant writing and budgeting, I made it a point to do our part to provide players with up-to-date equipment and provide safe techniques for players to use in practice and in games to help reduce those risks. That, above all else, is what I want people to remember and continue to put an emphasis on in the future.
Contrary to what some may feel, with the program in such a strong state, it made my decision to step away even easier. I certainly want the program to continue to have success and I am hopeful that the foundation that was built will propel this and future teams to achieve great things in the years to come.
I am leaving coaching, for now, but not football. I will be coaching at the Randall Cobb Football ProCamp this June and look forward to being involved in the game as my time allows and opportunities arise.
I will continue with my passion for teaching at Sevastopol while remaining active in the Sevastopol community in other roles. I am grateful for this opportunity and I will certainly miss working with our student athletes and representing the Sevastopol Pioneers. I wish them the best of luck in the years ahead.