I am going to start this piece by sharing the meaning of the word “editorial.” An editorial is an “opinion piece” which typically evaluates an important or much talked about topic. Now I’m not sure how “important” a football game between two high schools is, but I do know it has been a much talked about subject since the football program began at Minarets. I know because myself and a close friend, Darren Soares, started the program.
We started the program with the help of a very giving community, we secured a grant from Chuckchansi which helped us hit the ground running. The outpouring from our small little town was overwhelming. Our intention was to give our children the opportunity to play the game they loved. Yes, I use the word “love” because the game is filled with emotion and you either love it or hate it.
We had no idea that by building the program, it would be seen in a negative way by so many people, that by creating the program, it would cost us friendships along the way. The two of us spent years coaching for the Badger Youth Football program - my son dreamed of playing quarterback for Coach Eames and wearing the Blue and White. But with every friend I lost, I was blessed with two new ones.
At the time it was quite an interesting line I was walking, covering football for both schools the first year. We only had a JV team, I would attend the Mustangs game, then drive to Yosemite and sit in the booth with my son, who was proudly wearing his, grass, dirt, and sometimes blood stained Minarets jersey.
He wanted to be there as much as I. We drove as fast as the law would allow, ok, once and a while faster, but always safely. We had a vested interest in these kids. I had coached them as youth, he had played with them for years growing up, he was their quarterback, just wearing a different color.
Countless older players had mentored him in his youth, he bled Blue and White growing up. He struggled coming to grips with the adversity that came with playing for another school.
Between the lines
I am a baseball guy, it’s in my DNA, but there is something that happens between the lines on the Grid Iron that cannot be duplicated in any other sport. There is a bond that is built between these players as they battle through adversity, injury, and the pain these young men face on the field, be it in practice or friday night under the lights.
It begins at the youth level, it’s something that usually is only seen up close, by the coaches, in the trenches.
The mental and physical toughness that is needed to be successful at this game is astounding. It takes communication, hard work, and dedication. You must be “all in” if you are going to play the game, it’s the only way to be successful.
I relate it to our everyday life - I believe communication, hard work and dedication go hand-in-hand to be successful in life. To be successful at your work, in your relationships, to make a difference in your community. I believe football, with all it’s negativity of late concerning injury, builds that in young men and woman.
I say woman because my daughter hung up her ballet shoes to put on cleats to play this awesome game. She played for three years at the youth level until coaches thought she shouldn’t play anymore. I remember her last year, we were up on Memorial Youth Football 58-0, my daughter stood on the sidelines, tears rolling down her face because her family had driven from all over the valley to watch her, yet she never got on the field.
Sure it hurt, and I communicated my displeasure with my fellow coaches. But what I didn’t see, nor could they, is what they had done to her spirit. They had built her into one of the toughest young ladies I have ever come across in my life. They, unknowingly had prepared her for downfalls and problems that would arise in her future. They did, as well as the game of football.
Building a program
It was our intention for every kid that wanted to play this game to have the opportunity, no matter which side of the mountain they lived on. It was our intention to give them the opportunity to build themselves into hard working, dedicated young people with good communication skills.
To be productive young citizens that make a difference in our community. It was never our intention to weaken the Mighty Badgers program, to take players away from a school. Life is about choices, it’s about helping a young person develop the skills that will help them be successful in life, in their marriages, the work, to make good choices.
Some will thrive at Yosemite, others will thrive at Minarets - it doesn’t matter the color or school, what matters is that they thrive.
There are 105 kids playing football in our Mountain community - a greater number then ever before. We had two youth football programs going until one was disbanded, but that is for another editorial, someday.
I am not about the color that a young man or woman wears on their back. I am for building that young person into something they might have never imagined they could be. That is why I coached. In the early years, when we couldn’t find a way to win, we taught them to battle, to pick their weary bones off the field and prepare for the next play.
On the sidelines, as a parent, you will never witness the look in the eyes of these young warriors as they battle, some grow weak, but they have a brother next to them that will always have their back, always help them to their feet. Just as in life, you will have those battles, tragedies, and setbacks. But these young men have learned how to pick themselves up and try harder.
Regardless the score of any game on any field they are all learning how to win at this very, often challenging, game we call life.
Just as the Badgers have battled the last couple of years, I am pleased with their new found success. I am proud of those young boys that took it on the chin week after week as they grew into young men.
Game after game they were demoralized, just as Minarets was in the early years. I am proud of the coaches that never gave in, never quit. This game builds “character,” you are taught to hold your head up, win or lose, and go back to the drawing board and try again.
I am equally proud of the Mustangs, they have a new coach and are learning a new system and will be successful in the future. I find it interesting that we have two head coaches with such deep ties to the community.
Minarets Coach Becher Marr played for Coach Eames as did Yosemite Coach Burnett. Each is invested in our community, each strives to develop these young men to be successful. It’s not like that everywhere. Our kids have two coaches that grew up here, live here, and plan to raise their families here. Both programs are headed in the right direction.
Outside the lines
There will be other games, but none will affect our community as much. I really don’t care what the score was last Friday night - I didn’t even attend the game - I knew there was going to be a loser and a winner and I didn’t want to see either team demoralized.
I am not a fan of kicking my opponent when they are down, as so many did to the Badgers and Mustangs in years past. I believe in playing with respect and dignity and I believe in respecting the game as well as the players. This is not a popular opinion, but it is mine.
I have a vested interest in these students athletes - I’ve coached many of them, so I escaped to the movies with my wife Friday night. The game is history, Minarets had been requesting the game from day one, seven years in the making.
Hopefully it is the beginning of a fun tradition between the two schools and will help mend some fences between the two communities. Many will rub a bit of salt in the wound (as you know the Badgers won 50-0), but for me, it’s about the 105 young athletes learning the game skills needed to be successful in life.
Now as a parent in the stands it is my job to be positive and supportive, no matter the outcome. My roll is to support the young men that play and as that brother on the field, pick them up and prepare them for the next battle, be it on the field, in the classroom, or dealing with a tragic loss, as many of us have the last couple weeks tragically losing a young lady from our community.
Yes, football, in all it’s pain and glory, helps our youth deal with situations outside the lines - life.