It was cold! The water and ice ran down my back Saturday after getting doused with a cooler. I had just won my first game as a head football coach.
Many of you know that I have been coaching football in the community for over a decade. Recently, I joined the Fargo Invaders, a semi-pro team, as an offensive assistant/run-game coordinator. Our season runs from the spring through the summer and many of my former players that I coached in college are participating on the team.
This past weekend, our head coach was racking up a 103-degree fever and could not make the game. We were also short staffed as several assistants had prior commitments and were out of town. This caused my anxiety to go through the roof as I knew my role on the team and was now unexpectedly thrust into the main role.
But to say I wasn’t ready would be a lie.
I had dreamt of this moment for all my life and it was going to happen. I stayed up most of the night Friday preparing my playcall sheet, analyzing the roster and going over adjustments that I wanted to make. When I left Fergus Falls for Fargo, I knew that I couldn’t fail.
When the ref whistled in the kickoff, I knew that it was time to showcase what I had learned from years of experience, coaching clinics, videos and essays. After our defense stopped our opponent and forced them to punt, the spotlight went on to the offense and my playcalling.
I spoke with our quarterback on the sideline before he went on the field and we agreed we should just see how good our foe was by throwing a deep pass. He took the snap and flung the ball down the field, one pass, one touchdown. Awesome!
The night would continue to get easier as we went into halftime with a 33-0 lead. Strong defensive play and excellent play by our offense put us in the driver’s seat.
The second half was merely a formality as we tried a few different things, rotated in some players and had fun. It was how a first game should go for a head coach. Final score: 47-0.
Going back and watching the film to find out who dumped the water on me, I discovered that it was my quarterback and center — both I coached in college. That made it an extra-special night as they have been two of my favorite players to coach and talk with.
It also really meant a lot to me to know that the head coach, the Invaders assistant coaches, board and players had trust in me. No one was hesitant to hand over the keys of a well-oiled machine to me. I just started coaching with the team this winter and they already treat me like one of their own.
Coming off the tremendous elation the next day, I received a call from the head coach. He told me congratulations, said he believed in me and that he was proud of me (even at my age, you like to get a pat on the back for your work). The phone call capped off a very special weekend.
But as we move into the next game, I move back to my former role. But when opportunity knocks again, I will be just as ready to open the door.
Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal. His column appears Friday.