"Put me in Coach"

Do you remember when you were a kid living in the old Canal Zone and there were all kinds of organized sports? A person would start at a wee age of 5 with the PeeWee League and moved right on up through Fastlich Baseball to high school team sports.

The days were filled with every team sport from baseball, basketball, football, track, swimming and so on. A day didn't go by when we were not doing things in organized ball. As I think back now and still think today, we were really lucky to have had such great coaches. They were the best in the entire World.

They were both teacher and coach. They taught us the basics and encouraged us to always do our best. Under their tollage they seem to always make us reach even higher than we thought possible.

Besides the world of sports, there was always a moral lesson to the madness of coaching and getting a team ready for the next big game. If we thought we could and if we thought we couldn't… we were right. The coaches always stressed that we played as we practice so no slackers were allowed. If the coach felt you were skating then you earned the privilege of running wind sprints until the cows came home at night. That was a real bummer!

I can remember that live tackling drills was something I often threaded for the luck of the draw would square me off with a lineman out weighing me by 50 pounds or more. But I found that if I hit hard and often I was okay. It would hurt but only for a little while. Besides the saying that was on the BHS Boy's Locker room wall was apropos, "It is not the size of the dog in a fight that counts but the size of the fight in the dog." The coach could tell those players who played with lots of heart and with sheer abandonment of the love of the game that it was a great possibility they would see action come game night. Now this was music to the ears of those who were not yet first string.

The coaches were always saying that, if you aren't having any fun out here, then you are not playing up to your potential. So, you best get with the program or you would soon find something else to entertain your afternoons after school.

The head football coach was continually repeating, "Football is a collision sport that is 60 minutes long. I want some hard hitting for 60 minutes. So lets see some hustle out there."

When the game night arrived, we would all suit up and receive the last minute instructions. The locker room would smell like a Ben-gay factory and the atmosphere was as thick as pea soup! The butterflies would be fluttering in our stomachs while other had the runs. Then just before running out of the locker room and onto the field, the head coach would give us all a last word of encouragement. Then with the sound of the mud cleats vibrating on the cement floor we would all head for the playing field with the last cheer of "Lets go get them" ringing in our ears.

After the national anthem and the toss of the coin the whistle would sound and the bands would play, as the fans in the stands would roar as the football would be airborne and the game was underway. There would be a mad dash as players ran at each other like mad dogs. Soon the runner carrying the ball would be brought down with a beautiful open field tackle. The play-by-play announcer would run down the starting lineups for both teams.

Of course only 11 players of each team could be out on the field at anyone time. So, as it is often the case, some people had to warm the bench. The cheerleaders would be leading the cheers. If we were on defense it would be…"Push them back… push them back way back!" If we had the ball it would be…"We want a touchdown now…. Go Offense… B-A-L-B-O-A… Balboa… Go BULLDOGS!" That is how it went all night long for 60 minutes. It could be a seesaw battle or a regular blow out. Most coaches in the old Canal Zone were not into running up the score. If ahead the head coach tried to give all players an opportunity to show their stuff under game conditions. If behind the head coach might make a substitution just to see if changing the mix of players produced something positive and turned a loss into a win. In either case each player on the bench best keep focus and pay attention to what was going on in the field of play. You never knew when your number would be called and you would be rushed into the game.

Then of course there would always be someone… maybe even you who would ask the coach when there was a lull in the action, "Put me in coach." Now that took lots of chutzpah but a lot of the coaches liked that spunky attitude in a player. Besides all he could say was yes or no. So what did you have to lose? So, at a great risk… in the long run, as in life, we best be ready to ask the proverbial question, "Put me in Coach." In life it is best to be always ready to accept the rejection or the acceptance that comes with asking the question, "Put me in Coach."

Regardless of the outcome, it is best to be in the game of life then on the sidelines with life passing you by. So, the next time you feel you have warmed the bench long enough and feel you should be activated you should ask the proverbial question to the 'Head Coach of all Coaches,' "Put me in Coach."

Take care. God Bless you and yours.