The Horrors Of Homecoming To Football Coaches

Payson High School football players breaking the homecoming banner.

Payson High School football players breaking the homecoming banner. |

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Homecoming.

Bah, humbug.

Okay, that sounds Ebenezer Scrooge-like, but if the truth be known, homecomings can be a huge pain in the rear for high school football coaches whose jobs often hinge on winning games.

The disdain for the holy nights of high school football is because a high school coach’s toughest task is keeping players focused, working hard and paying attention during the practice week leading up to Friday evenings.

But homecoming festivities render the chore almost impossible when dealing with adrenaline-hyped teenage boys flooded with hormones.

So let’s see what distractions there are during homecoming week that have coaches spewing blasphemes and pulling out what little mane they have left.

First off, leading up to Friday night, there are five so-called “Spirit Days” in which members of the high school classes, freshmen through seniors, are asked to don a certain wardrobe.

That can be disaster.

Among the most common spirit days are “Opposite Sex” or “Switch Days” in which boys are to arrive at school dressed as girls and females dress as males.

On the prep athletics scene, there’s nothing quite as stimulating for a high school football coach as to walk into a locker room to see his starting middle linebacker wearing a polka dot dress and high heels.

Those switch days can also cause big-time problems for the local newspaper and school administrators.

During PHS homecoming festivities in the mid 1980s, a manly, rugged football player delved head-first into school spirit by arriving for classes on opposite sex day wearing maternity clothes stuffed with a pillow which rendered a pregnant look.

A Payson Roundup photographer, looking on, thought it would make a good front-page picture and enlisted the school principal to pose with the “pregnant” teen all the while rubbing her — I mean, his — tummy.

Only trouble is, there were a handful of PHS girls at the time who were pregnant, and readers did not consider the photo as hilarious as the photographer did.

Not only did the photo prompt a flood of letters to the editor, it had the football coach scratching his noggin in disbelief.

In the coaching fraternity, spirit days are usually considered huge distractions for players supposed to be focused on winning football games. There are also a wealth of other disturbances coaches grit their teeth over.

Among them are the late-afternoon and evening float-building sessions that take time away from game preparations such as watching scouting films and going over scouting reports.

The time spent building floats can disrupt players’ concentration, as does the homecoming parade in which some think more of waving at the opposite sex and throwing candy than they do of running the waggle belly sweep.

Then there’s a week full of nominating and naming royalty in which students, who are often football players, vie for positions on the homecoming court.

Which means, team members are mulling over their votes for prince, princess, queen and king rather than scheming ways to stunt through the A gap or properly execute a 129 bootleg.

On the night before the big game, bonfires and rallies are a big draw. But, where are the players’ minds? Are they on the proper alignment in the 3-3-5 and reading the running back through the guards, or trying to influence a girl to boogie down with them at the homecoming dance?

You’re correct — a teenager’s attention is on the bop.

When the Friday night lights finally light up the evening sky, coaches suck in breaths of relief, hoping the game plan is executed perfectly. But they do so knowing homecoming halftime festivities are just another gala that can turn into a nightmare, especially if the game score is close.

If the game is a nail-biter the coach’s first obligation is to gather all his players in the halftime locker room to make strategy and game plan decisions.

More often than not, the home team’s key players are not in the lockeroom but rather on the field basking in the crowning of the royalty.

Years ago, a coach who didn’t have his starting quarterback available at halftime, became so frustrated, he charged onto the field and ordered the player off the float and into the locker room.

Of course, that didn’t endear him to moms, dads and fans who gave him a round of boos that would make the catcalls pointed at the NFL replacement refs tame in comparison.

It’s a given in the prep gridiron world that homecomings are special celebrations that epitomize what’s good about tradition.

But for frustrated coaches hoping to keep the week business as usual, they are fêtes that thankfully come along only once a year.

Much like what mean-spirited Scrooge thought about Christmas.

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