In football, coach can make huge difference

By Ian Gold

What a difference a coach makes.

I had always known this to be true. But as I sat on the hot metal bleachers at my former high school, I learned this to be the football gospel!

I come from a large high school in New Jersey, nestled somewhere equidistant from the shadow of New York City and what has been so lovingly christened the “armpit of America.” Geographically, my high school should be a perennial state power, as we are one of the larger schools in the area and have a socioeconomic and ethnic mix that should spell out C-O-N-T-E-N-D-E-R. Instead, since I have known of the sport, West Orange football has spelled out something closer to a smelly four-letter word.

Our football team used to operate by an offensive and defensive scheme probably designed by Ray Charles. Great musician, but you know, probably not the best person to direct stuff. I suffered through the system, and my brother was getting the same treatment — until this year. We experienced what I like to call a renaissance.

West Orange opened up their pockets and hired a new offensive coordinator, a man with a history of taking bad programs and putting them on the map. He has a brilliant offense and probably can walk on water.

The previous season, West Orange was horrible, winning only one game and scoring a combined five touchdowns all season. From last season nothing has changed. The same players who found themselves on the right side of the win-loss column are back.

But after the emergence of this one new coach, hard work in the offseason, and most importantly, the ability to shed the losing attitude, West Orange has matched their best start in years and is averaging 41 points per game.

So here I am, the sun pounding down on my face, my girlfriend plotting how many hours of “Project Runway” she can make me watch, and my old teammates sitting around in jealous disbelief. But thanks to the success of my brother, I was far enough removed to enjoy the effect of one man on an entire team, school and community.

It’s only in football that the coach makes such a tremendous impact – one of the many things that make it the greatest sport in the world.

Michael Jordan is going to win the NBA Championship; Peyton Manning can’t buy a ring; but Tom Brady has three. The coach is an important position in any sport, but only in football is the coach bigger than the players. In any other sport the great player is going to find a way to succeed. In football a bad coach can hang his queen out to dry in front of a pawn.

And suddenly, the band of misfits who couldn’t catch a break the year before look like an organized juggernaut on offense. Defense wins championships, but scoring 41 points a game will help you win some games. With that realization, I put the crown on the young offensive coordinator. What a beautiful game you realize it is when you are a first-hand witness to the possible change.

Following the game, and the football religious experience, I joined most of the crowd on hand and waited for the players and coaches to walk by. I didn’t intend to do anything but shake my brother’s hand. But after watching the usually reserved and shy little kid (6 feet 4 inches tall and 255 pounds, as the program reads) walk through a tunnel of celebrating cheerleaders and Pee-Wee football players, helmet off and as happy as I’ve ever seen him, I had to stray from the plan. My brother got a hug, and the new coach got the handshake plus an additional offer.

Ever been to Champaign?

Ian Gold is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]