High school FB coaches feel the pressure to win
A game is no longer a game when it starts to affect someone’s physical and mental health.
Michigan State University football coach Mark Dantonio’s heart attack after a 34-31 overtime victory on Sept. 18 against Notre Dame shows how much coaching football can affect someone’s health even if he isn’t taking the hits on the field.
“Football is unique, and I tell our kids that all the time,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said. “It takes a special type of kid to be really good at it, and the same with coaching. There is a certain level of commitment to take the time, and that puts stress on your life.”
The same coaching stress that affects Division I college coaches trickles down to the high school level.
Palisade High School coach John Arledge is entering his 10th season coaching the Bulldogs, and realizes how tough manning the sidelines can be.
Arledge referred to the Bulldogs’ 21-20 loss to Glenwood Springs as a game where he felt the ill effects of coaching.
“People think in the stands that I’m yelling at their kid like I hate them, but I’m just trying to get them in the right spot, get them deeper or wider or whatever it is,” Arledge said. “But I yelled so much in that game that my diaphragm hurt all weekend long. You yell so much that your chest cavity is sore like someone beat you up.”
The high school coach can’t help but feel the stress from the wins and losses.
“One year I went to check for an ulcer, and the doctor was like, ‘You have to not be so stressed,’ ” Central coach Vern McGee said. “I was like, ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ Win more games was the easy answer.”
Winning might not be an easy answer, though. Successful teams are under pressure to stay successful.
“I had a coach that once said if you can’t enjoy the wins as much as the losses are devastating, something is wrong,” Owens said. “But even when you win, there isn’t this feeling of relaxation. When you win you are still stressed and worried about the next game.”
Owens is getting a different perspective this season, with the Tigers 8-1 and clinching the Southwestern Conference title. In Owens’ first two season with Grand Junction, the Tigers won a total of six games.
“I look at the last two years at Grand Junction and I was doing nothing different from what we do now,” Owens said. “But you don’t see the rewards and that makes it stressful, so you go home and take things more personally.”
Much of the stress of coaching football stems from the nature of the game.
“Every 25 seconds you have to make a decision that could affect the game, and the funny thing is, every time someone is cheering, someone else is in agony,” Arledge said. “For me, it’s like a forest fire keeps popping up and I have to keep stopping it. I burn timeouts like nothing because I can’t communicate to our kids from so far away.”
Arledge has been coaching 20 years in Colorado, and has figured out what motivates him to come back year after year.
“I don’t do it because I’m on TV or I have to win a state championship, I do it because I love these kids,” Arledge said. “I do it because it helps kids have better grades, helps them be focused in their lives, and teaches them to make better choices.”
The intensity coaches feel on the sideline is similar to the way they played.
“You want that game-time intensity,” McGee said. “I’ve said once I’m not nervous, I’m going to get out, because you always want to compete and win, no matter who you are playing.”