Many classrooms, many lessons

Published 2:03 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pelham High School assistant coach Jason Simmons instructs the PHS defense during the Panthers’ jamboree game. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Are you ready for some football?” That’s the question I asked Pelham High School head football coach Brett Burnett when we passed one another in the school hallway.

Burnett said, “Yes ma’am. I am. Are you ready?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “This season is going to be fun.”

PHS winning games, matches and competitions makes me happy. PHS kids having fun and building character makes me happy also, no matter what the outcome. Maybe my healthy perspective is rooted in history.

Back in the last millennium, when Pelham High opened, we started with only seventh, eighth and ninth-graders who all came from an overcrowded Valley Elementary.

Our football team practiced in someone’s pasture on Highway 119 near Indian Springs.

That was the school’s only field until our very dedicated parents and coaches were able to etch a stadium out of Ned Bearden’s pasture on the school campus.

Soon, PHS played varsity football. Yes, with only ninth, 10th and 11th-graders, Pelham and Helena boys competed with teams loaded with huge juniors and seniors from around the county. We endured serious losses. After the games, my father would say, “Our cheerleaders were prettier than theirs and our band sounded better too.”

Our players learned that often more size and more experience wins. They also learned to play for the sake of being the very best team they could be. Their efforts were seldom rewarded with victories. Because our team’s goal was to play its best game, the team never quit. Perseverance ran deep in those first Pelham Panthers. Never quitting gave us a few wins no one expected. Never quitting still yields unexpected victories.

After watching coaches work with their teams at both the Riverchase Middle School and Pelham High School games last week, I realized that the football field and the sidelines are classrooms too — and so are the stands.

All of the adults in attendance are coaches, some are football or cheer coaches and the rest of us are life coaches.

Our reactions teach our kids how to deal with victory, with adversity and even with officials’ calls that don’t go our way.

U.S. Olympic gold medalist in swimming Josh Davis said, “A great coach is someone who believes in you and teaches you how to operate at your very best.”

This football season, let’s have fun — and let’s all be great coaches.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at