Pin It

Beyond the Friday Night Lights 

"I teach high school English and I coach JV football."

There's usually a startled pause, as if I'd just stated that Duke and UNC are equally favorable institutions.

People have a hard time understanding my dual interests. For nine hours a day, I push and prod my students at Jordan High School to find beauty and meaning through the works of Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston. We write a great deal. They complain. I push further. They pull back, before diving forward in a way that inspires me every single day.

In the afternoon I drop my literary hat to become a JV football coach. The teaching here is really quite the same, only louder.

I often apologize to my wife for becoming a ghost this time of year, but she understands me better than I understand myself. She's not a huge fan of the sport, but she knows what it does for the young men I work with.

I love that fact that all students in Durham have to pass English in order to play football. You don't like reading? Too bad. You'll give it a shot because I've got something you want. Essay writing isn't any fun? Well guess what, you're going to learn analysis and argumentation until these skills mix effortlessly with your knowledge of offensive and defensive fronts.

Crazy notions begin to develop in their scattered young brains. Why rep with the Bloods or the Crips when the tightest gang in town meets every afternoon on a dusty field behind the school? Why not do homework if it gives me 55 brothers I respect, along with three new fathers who care about me?

Perhaps a handful of these freshman and sophomores will eventually earn college football scholarships. Others, hopefully, will garner academic grant-in-aids. For some, football is the carrot that engenders positive behavior in school. It is a family where one may not exist otherwise. Football teaches trust and humility. It gives these young men a loyal group of adults who care about them and who want to see them grow into productive citizens.

Coaching is a highly political act. It fosters new ideas. It improves lives. It opens doors that may have seemed locked forever.

I coach high school English and I teach JV football. They are one and the same.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

Facebook Activity

Twitter Activity


What a nice story! I have a dear old friend, a true "elder" also, who as she grows old and …

by Eklutna on Maya Angelou, 1928-2014 (Front Porch)

This was a very touching piece, and I appreciate you sharing your experience, Grayson. It takes a very humble, kind, …

by sibel yaman on Race home (Front Porch)

© 2014 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation