Saturday, December 8, 2007

Life is good at Breck

Give me a break you freaking weasels. It's Finals Week! I'm up to my eyebrows in assignments, papers, and test preparations. But without having the slightest bit of sympathy for me, all that people are concerned with is "why haven't you updated this thing yet." So in the midst of my busy week, I've found a free hour to write a blog in the form of one of my favorite and most interesting experiences this past year. Because that's the kind of person I am, I'll accommodate others first and myself second.

A small majority of people know this, but over the course of this fall semester, I've allocated a lot of my time to the Breck football program. I had the opportunity to work for the coaching staff on the varsity team. Now for you anti-football fans out there, don't be too quick to assume that this edition is not for you. As I've recanted many times before, and will continue to do in future issues, my whole life doesn't revolve around sports, sports, sports. And the last I wanna do is create writing where that is the sole topic of conversation. So don't pull the trigger and click the little "x" in the top right corner just yet, because I'm sure you'll enjoy the stories and experiences I have had.

I'd like to preface this by saying that I've never actually been to Beverly Hills, but through my experiences at Breck, I can't imagine that there is much disparity between the two. As I pulled into the campus at 3:00 pm every day, the scene most often resembled that of an exotic car expo. I have witnessed a middle schooler getting picked by dad in a Lamborghini. I have seen my kids carpool to practice in rides that are pushin six figures. Even one of our own - a member of the coaching staff who manages various restaurants in downtown Minneapolis drives a Maserati. As I was walking towards my less desirable car one night after a game, he asked if I wanted to ride with him to Chili's to share a drink with the rest of the coaches. Now I don't get off on cars like a lot of people do; automobiles have never really perked up my interest. But I am fully aware of how expensive this car is, so I subsequently jumped at the opportunity without hesitating - realizing that this is probably the first and last time I will ever ride in a Maserati.

For someone who grew up in what I consider a "blue-collar" smaller town setting, this was quite the culture shock for me. As a fifth grader, I don't have memories of whipping out my Sidekick to text friends in-between classes, and I certainly didn't have all the other luxuries that our varsity players are fortunate to have. The private school mentality above anything else was the hardest adjustment for me me personally. Forget about football - the primary reason I was there, but how do you possibly relate to kids that have lives completely foreign to the setting that you grew up in?

The school itself accommodates these kids in ways I could've never imagined at that age. Every student is issued there own personal Apple iBook, and the majority of them just take awful care of it. I can't count how many times a kid has come into the head coach's office and said "Hey did a janitor happen to pick up my computer? I left it in my 7th hour class." Not a big deal to them...just a laptop. Their dining hall is pretty impressive too. My favorite inside joke with one of the coaches who I share a similar background with is the comment: "Oh c'mon....salmon again!"

As far as the football specific amenities, we play all of our home games on state-of-the art field turf. The surface is unreal and it is completely weather resistant. So if it's been raining up until 3:30, the field will be dry by 3:45. Not only do we play on it, but we practice on it too. The school has two separate fields for games and practices. I couldn't believe all the Breck gear they shoveled at me when I first started. All of it was brand new Nike polos, t-shirts, windbreakers, pants, rain jackets, hats, shorts, and yes I am referring to all of these in the plural tense because I received them in the plural tense. I didn't get a coaching paycheck, but I think all of the free apparel, meals, and beverages more than compensated for my efforts. One of my favorite moments this year is when I invited my dad up into the press box with me during our game versus St. Anthony. It was turned momentarily humorous when during a timeout he asked me:
"Shawn what's that switch on your headset there?"
-My response: "It's a two-way communication deal where I can listen to both the offensive and defensive coordinator. Don't you have that?"
"No, we don't have that. I didn't even know that existed."

You should have seen our Homecoming. It looked like a carnival, and I'm not making this up. We had a clown making balloons, we had a tent designated for games and face painting, we even had two of those giant inflatable playgrounds that kids could jump around in. In addition, they had also deemed the event "Respect your animal day," where fans and alumni had the opportunity to bring their pets to the game. It was about the most bizarre thing I've ever seen, there must have been hundreds of dogs surrounding the field. In the midst of all of this, all I could think about was how could anybody possibly focus on a football game? (which we subsequently lost in overtime by the way).

I think it was either Ben Franklin or Brad Childress that once said: "Too whom much is given, much is expected." This is definitely the case with Breck parents who pay a pretty high premium to give their children the best opportunities available. When they pay that $26,000 per year tuition, first and foremost they want to work towards getting their kid a good ACT score. It's my understanding, that 15% of the students at Breck end up in Ivy League schools. This is the case for our captain linebacker who will be attending Harvard next fall. I can remember a guy from Moorhead announcing he was going to Harvard when I was in high school. I believe he is still the only one in the history of the school to do that - quite a contrast.

I was a little discouraged that our season ended so early, but at the same time I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. Looking back, I feel so fortunate that the other four metro schools I sent letters to didn't respond to me. I couldn't have picked a better place to kick off my coaching career. Going into this, I fully anticipated me having a limited role with the team, but I was as about as engaged as you can be - serving as the primary defensive backs and receivers coach. As foreign as the private school mentality was to me initially, I gradually gained a new found appreciation for the school and Breck community started to grow on me. I should clarify that the campus itself is consists of a high school, middle school, and lower school which are all connected together. So as I walked through the hallways not only would I see my players, but also all the Little Mustangs walking around. The thing I like about Breck is it just has such a big brother like feel to it. Most often you would see high schoolers dropping off their younger siblings at their respective section of the school. The thing I like about the football program in particular is that it's not like Moorhead where you have these little Pop Warner teams with team names like the Panthers or Cougars. At Breck, you're a Mustang the whole way through. So, by the time you get to our level, they're just chompin at the bit to wear that navy and gold and play under those bright lights. I think that's such a cool thing.

Looking back, the stories that made me scratch my head are the ones I enjoyed the most. In our last playoff game, our kick returner went down around the 50 and didn't get back up for the longest time. All of us feared injury, but it turns out he had lost one of his contacts. What transpired afterwards was on of the strangest things I've ever seen. I have never in my life witnessed a 7-minute contact find on a football field. The search party consisted of officials, trainers, our players, and even our opponents. That was the best part about it - the Rockford defense was literally on their hands and knees combing the field to help find it. Can anybody out there even attest to finding their contact after dropping it in the bathroom? Impossible. I stood up in the press box speechless. Even the phrase "you've got to be kidding me" doesn't do it justice. The irony of situation is that he never lost his contact in the first place. After the game he discovered that it just got pushed up into his eyelid. Although he was one of the best running backs in the state, sometimes the world just turned a little too fast for him.

We definitely had our share of thrills this year also. Most notably upsetting the top team in our conference DeLaSalle on their homecoming. We had the game pretty well in hand in the fourth quarter, and I'll never forget our defensive coordinator switching his headset over to offense and saying: "Miller time, Miller time, Miller time!" It is always more fun when you win - no doubt about it. You guys can keep your kick ass internships, I'll take Friday nights any day of the week. Life is more comfortable in sweats anyway

No comments: