I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this, but when I was in middle school, I composed a screenplay of an inspirational future biopic about the first female NFL coach, loosely based on myself. Or at least starring myself when I hit mid-twenties. (Which would have been about last year–sorry about that, 13-year-old self) I had this pretty planned out, beginning with the highly implausible premise of a sort of “open call” for a replacement coach for
the Redskins an often down-on-their-luck football team with exceptionally loyal fans. Then, miracle of miracles and against all odds, our plucky leading lady is hired as the coach! But who will believe in her? Certainly not the skeptical and curmudgeonly, young, attractive, and single team owner! (You see where this is going) Aside from the fact that I managed to RomCom the plot of my inspirational football movie, I did have a spectacular final game planned with the emotional music and with sufficient slow motion jumping as the team wins. Well done, sister suffragettes.
While my twenties have not thus far involved an NFL career, coaching or otherwise, I did briefly start and coach a middle school football club my first year of teaching. I discovered that several of the middle school boys I taught were quite good at football, and as baseball season descended I found myself missing football more than ever. It started pretty casually, scrimmaging on the back lawn, but it grew and I tried to “coach” whichever team played offense. I tried to bring in some guest trainers and arrange some outside games, but if nothing else I extended football season for myself.
That would not be the first time I would coach an all-boys team, though. I became the coach of the varsity cross country team, which became the varsity boys cross country team. I got an official coaching polo, and I got to drive the 12-seater van. One of our first away meets was on a Saturday, and as I loaded up the mom van, a small caravan of parents showed up and announced they were following me to the meet. I’m not sure it’s possible to feel more pressure behind the wheel than to be driving a massive van followed by a string of parents whose children are in your passenger seats. Maybe the movie Speed with Sandra Bullock. Otherwise no. Tension was high. We merged onto the highway as a long snake was crossing, and as we ran over it, I let out a shriek that no doubt threatened to crack the windshield. This is not something that the coach of an all-male team lives down, and in addition to trying to achieve driving perfection in front of all the parents, I also fielded the bewilderment of those around me who explained that between the snake and the driver of a passenger van, I should not be the one in mortal terror. Indeed.
Even though I am a girl, the abrupt transition from coaching boys to coaching girls cheerleading was always a shift. The first day I discovered a middle schooler stretching while in tears, I realized I needed to reign in my inner Jillian Michaels and take a different approach. Our squad was a sideline cheer team as opposed to a competitive team, and each combination of girls over three years had their own flare. We had the best seat of the house at basketball games and the most fun practices running through half-time show dances.
So after many adventures in a variety of sports seasons, this fall I debuted as coach again, this time to middle school girls soccer. Our first practice I was warming up with them. Our first stretch, a standing hamstring stretch, I gave the instruction and then demonstrated by stretching down and grabbing my feet. A collective gasp arose and someone said “We’ve never seen a grown-up coach who can do that before!” So the verdict on soccer coaching? Nailed it. I can touch my toes. My sports-movie-screenwriting self from days of yore would be proud.